Karapatan demands pullout of troops in Abra and Agusan del Sur

"As it is, life is already hard for indigenous peoples defending their ancestral lands from mining companies and other government projects, lalo pang pinapahirap ng AFP at Oplan Bayanihan," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said.
The human rights group called for the immediate pull out of military troops in La Paz, Agusan del Sur and in Lacub, Abra as it received reports of forced evacuation, grave coercion, disruption of classes and other human rights violations due to military operations of the 26th and 41st Infantry Battalion Philippine Army. 
“This is Martial Law redux, the same kind of rights abuses conducted to suppress dissent against the government’s anti-people policies,” Palabay said. 

Evacuation in Agusan del Sur

In Brgy. Lydia, La Paz, Agusan del Sur, over 450 Manobo evacuees, half of them minors, were surrounded by more than 30 battle-ready soldiers of the 26th IBPA on September 10. The evacuees left their homes after the military intensified its operation in the Lumad communities, believed to be a move to clear the area for mining operation of Makilala and Malampay mining companies.  

These companies, through the Bagani Force, were coercing the community members to sign a memorandum of agreement since 2013 for the entry of said mining companies. But, the Manobo refused. 

Last August 9, the 26th IBPA with the paramilitary group Bagani Force conducted an operation in the community. They threatened to massacre the entire community of Mintake-i, including the teachers of the literacy-numeracy learning center administered by Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR). As a result, Mintake-i residents left their homes and went to the forests to avoid the AFP troops and Bagani Forces. 
The RMP-NMR reported that on August 12, 2014, days after the evacuation, a group of five Lumad, with three minors who were students of the RMP-NMR school, roamed around the forest to look for food. The military shot at the group, who fortunately were able to escape. 
As military operations intensified, more community members evacuated. As of August 29, 2014, 118 families from six communities of Manguicaw, Liyo, Liwangwangan, Libon, Minduyog and Mintake-i converged at the barangay proper of Lydia to seek refuge. Most of these families left their homes with only a few clothes and without food supply. Since the military operations started, many of these families cannot go back to their fields to gather food. 

Even the classes of RMP-NMR learning centers were disrupted affecting 75 children. The schools in Mintake-i, Libon, and Liwangwangan were tagged by the military as NPA schools, making them targets of military operation. 
Use of civilians as shields in military operation 

Similar military operation is on-going in Lacub, Abra that has resulted in the extrajudicial killing of Noel Viste on September 5, the use of some 24 Tingguian indigenous people as human shields during combat operation, indiscriminate firing leading to the evacuation of some six families and the suspension of classes in some of the affected barangays.  

In September 12, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance called for the immediate cessation of military operations in Lacub, Abra. 

Noel Vista of Bgy. Poblacion was killed after he was taken by said soldiers. Nicasio Asbucan was forced to guide the soldiers and was detained from September 5-7. Asbucan showed signs of acute stress disorder when the soldiers turned him over to Chief of Police of Lacub on September 7. The AFP coerced him to name Jay-ar Balaoag, Brgy. Capt. Of Lan-ag, Lacub as the NPA who fired and killed Noel Viste.
Also on Sept. 5, between 9:00-10:00 p.m., army personnel of the 41st IBPA in Sitio Bantugo, Poblacion, Lacub indiscrimately fired their weapons. An M203 shell landed in Bobon, an agricultural production area. Three farmers operating the irrigation were forced to sleep in the fields for fear of being strafed. Six families in Sitio Pacoc evacuated and stayed with their neighbours for the night. 
Bantugo Elementary and High School and Our Lady of Guadalupe High School suspended classes from September 5 to 8. The residents of Talampak agreed not to let their children attend school in Bantugo until the detachment is removed. The soldiers remained, despite the communities' opposition.

"The victims are those who sweat on their fields to live. They built their own schools because the government cannot provide for them. The government failed to serve them and the only known government presence is through the military that harass, coerce, kill, and abduct people and bomb communities.  These same communities are victimized during martial law and continue to this day,” Palabay ended. ###