AFP, paramilitary groups, mining companies terrorize residents in Sultan Kudarat town

"The Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 (MBLT 2), in cahoots with the private guards of David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), a mining and logging company, have been wreaking havoc in communities in Sultan Kudarat. The MBLT 2 and DMCI tandem is a match made in hell, responsible for heinous crimes against the people, including the disappearance of two indigenous people in November 2016 and the recent evacuation of residents in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

On March 19, 2017, around 48 elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 (MLBT 2) and company guards of DMCI, considered as paramilitaries, arrived in Sitio Tinagdanan, Brgy. Hinalaan, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. According to a fact-finding mission led by KALUHHAMIN and KARAPATAN SOCKSARGEN on March 25, soldiers and paramilitary men encamped on the church and several civilian houses.

On March 20, an encounter ensued between the marines and the NPA. The soldiers blocked the main road and prevented residents from going in and out of the community. A resident, Omen Gantangan, was approached by the soldiers and was asked if his house could be destroyed for it to be used as a landing area of their helicopter. Military operations in the area prompted the evacuation of 17 families from Pangyon, Sitio Tinagdanan.

The next day, March 21, soldiers illegally arrested Mateo Gantangan and interrogated him for three hours, accusing him of being a member of the NPA. Residents also reported going back to their house only to find these damaged and their things and domestic animals stolen.

On March 22, 11 residents approached the marines to hand them a letter from Brgy. Captain Gerry Sulangoy. The letter was a request for the marines to allow the residents to evacuate. Instead of any positive response, the residents were accused of faking the letter and was detained and interrogated from 8am to 3pm. A pastor, Godofredo Gantangay, who was among those detained was ordered to stay in a ‘sit-in-the-air’ position for seven hours and was repeatedly threatened to be killed. On the same day, the marines and DMCI guards went to the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) school in Sitio Tinagdanan and interrogated the students and the teachers.

"The continuing attacks against the Filipino people is sickening to the gut. It is a manifestation that State security forces are readily available for the defense of private companies and other State sanctioned policies to repress and suppress dissent. However, when it comes to the task of upholding human rights and showing basic decency towards marginalized communities, they arrive with their guns and tower at the people, feeling superior and invincible. Spreading fear and curtailing rights is what they are good at," said Palabay.

"The military's all-out-war rhetoric has resulted in intensified attacks against the Filipino people, fueled by the implementation of counter-insurgency programs in the countryside. With the number of political killings at 46 and the attacks against communities on the rise, the Duterte regime seems hell-bent in unraveling its fascist character with no-holds-barred. We must respond with continued indignation, with resistance, and with an ever urgent demand to discover all viable forms to change this damned system," ended Palabay.