Karapatan condemns threats harassment vs fact-finding mission in Mindanao

As the three-day International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in three regions in Mindanao is concluded today, Karapatan scored the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for the numerous cases of threats and harassment faced by participants to the said mission. 

"Either these are proof of the State forces' paranoia overdrive or it is clear evidence that the Duterte administration has much to hide and cover up in its continuing implementation of martial law and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan in Mindanao," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

Karapatan also stressed that "the widespread presence of soldiers in the streets and communities, suspicious-looking men on motorcycles and vehicles taking pictures and intimidating participants brazenly, and the endless military checkpoints all prove that civilian authority is severely undermined by the military in the Mindanao."

"The Duterte regime is spinning a narrative that military presence is normal and for peace and order. The cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, illegal arrests and detention, forced and fake surrenders documented by the fact-finding mission all show the contrary - that there is widespread unpeace and insecurity precisely because of the presence and combat operations of the military against civilians, who they perceive are all enemies of the state," Palabay commented.

"Congratulations, AFP, PNP and Malacañang! Your dirty tricks against human rights defenders and peace advocates who joined the factfinding mission have all the more exposed the lies underneath your 'no human rights violations in Mindanao under martial law' mantra. You never fail to prove that the real terrorists are those in uniform and those in power," she added.

"Unless repressive policies are revoked, any change in the leadership of the AFP or PNP or DOJ will have no real effect in making the human rights situation on the ground any better," Palabay said. 

The said mission was led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and the Mindanao for Civil Liberties. Makabayan legislators led by former Rep. Satur Ocampo and Mindanaoans Rep. Ariel Casilao and Rep. Carlos Zarate, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, peasant leaders and rights groups like Karapatan participated in the mission. 

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Incidents of threats and harassment against members of the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao Compiled from updates by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

April 6: Upon arrival at the Bancasi Airport in Butuan City and the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City, delegates of the FFM noticed banners with threatening texts: "Welcome members of international fact finding and solidarity mission. Just do it right!". 

In Butuan, at least five military intelligence agents held the said banner. Unidentified and suspicious looking men were taking pictures and videos of FFM participants. Two men onboard a black Toyota Hi- Lux van with plate number ABF1165 followed the delegates from the airport to the Butuan City Highway. Men onboard two motorcycles also tailed the convoy from the highway.  

In Misamis Oriental, soldiers held the FFM team led by formerAgrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano at a checkpoint in Brgy. Molugan, El Salvador, Misamis Oriental at 6:26am. Participants were required to get off their vehicles and present their IDs. At 6:38am, FFM delegates in another vehicle were held at a checkpoint im Brgy. Luyong Bunbun, Opol, Misamis Oriental, where the driver was asked to show his license and the vehicle’s certificate of registration. In less than 30 minutes at Brgy. Igpit, the delegation was again held by AFP Scout Rangers who required them again to show their IDs, while their driver was questioned and threatened with some traffic violation. 

April 6: FFM delegates in Southern Mindanao saw banners with threatening texts "Out International Fact Finding and solidarity mission teams. We want peace" en route to mission areas in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. 

April 6: FFM delegates were harassed in at least eight checkpoints from the airport. They were tailed by men onboard motorcycles and their pictures were taken. 

April 6-8: men in plainclothes onboard a motorcycle and unknown men on board a heavily tinted Toyota intermittently tailed FFM in Caraga.  

April 6: FFM delegates en route to Malaybalay, Bukidnon have been harassed at least 5 times.  

10:15am, Baloi, Cagayan de Oro: The team led by Amihan Secretary General Cathy Estavillo was stopped by the Regional Public Safety Battalion. The armed personnel asked their driver to show the vehicle’s Official Receipt of Certificate of Registration (OR-CR),  then instructed all passengers to  get off the vehicle and to show their identification cards. They were also told to sign the Scout Rangers’ logbook.

11:15am, Alae, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon: The team led by former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano was stopped by the PNP Highway Patrol Group and held for over 30 minutes without explanation. As in the last checkpoints, the HPG officers asked the driver to show his license and vehicle’s OR-CR. Before being let go, the delegates were asked to leave the vehicle and go through quarantine. The same HPG officers also held the local delegates and asked to show a permit to travel before they could proceed. 

11:55am, Manolo Fortich Central, Bukidnon: The delegates were briefly stopped by armed special police forces, at which point the delegates also noticed they were being tailed by two motorcycle riders.

12:30pm, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon: FFM teams were stopped by the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and asked to get off their vehicles to show their IDs. The policemen disallowed the delegates from taking photos. 

12:50pm, Dalwangan, Malaybalay, Bukidnon: The Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company stopped both teams and demanded that they write their names in their logbook.  

The teams finally arrived at their destination at Brgy. Patpat, Malaybalay, Bukidnon at 1pm. All three contingents of the FFM were tailed hereon till they made it to the city proper. 

4:30pm, Brgy. Sumpong, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon: A small contingent of the team en route to IFI Church was asked by the Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company to get off theirvehicles and show their IDs. Thirty minutes later, the Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company held the team ledby ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio. They were asked to show their IDs, and their names were listed down by the police. 

April 7: A rally was staged by soldiers of the 71st IBPA and police in Brgy. Anibongan, Maco, Compostela Valley calling for the continuation of martial law in Mindanao and for the FFM teams to leave. They also took pictures of the FFM delegates. Since April 2, they have been encamped in the village, purportedly for "clearing operations." The 71st IBPA is responsible for the frustrated EJK, torture and illegal detentionof two youth peasants in Maco last November 2017.  

April 7: Some 15 farmers from  Surigao del Sur who participated in the FFM focus group discussions were accosted by the police in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They were brought to the Lianga police station, where their pictures were taken and they were made to sign on the police logbook. The license of their van's driver was confiscated. They were released after.  

April 7 - Elements of Task Force Tagum, in full battle gear, flagged down, boarded and inspected the vehicles of FFM delegates in Purok Durian, Brgy. Apokon, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, while the participated were en route to Compostela Valley. Soldiers told the delegates that they will be barred from passing through unless they subject themselves to the said checkpoint. Lt. Cricensio refused to let the delegation proceed without presenting the IDs of all the participants.  

April 7 - FFM delegates in Northern Mindanao were stopped in two checkpoints from Malaybalay City on the way to the mission area in Quezon, Bukidnon. The contingent was tailed by men onboard three motorcycles, two of which do not have plates. Unidentified masked men also took pictures of delegates and their vehicle at the checkpoints in Brgy. Aglayan, Malaybalay City and Brgy. Lumbo, Valencia City. Members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion asked if the participants were with former DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano. 

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580