Stop military operations in Manobo communities in Surigao!

The human rights alliance Karapatan denounces the continued military operations of the 58th IBPA at Lianga, Surigao del Sur which caused the evacuation of over 300 families or 1,795 individuals, mostly lumads (indigenous peoples), from their homes.

We believe that the AFP’s so-called “community projects” for “peace and development” are not sincere efforts to aid the Manobo tribesmen who, on their own and with no government help, have established their own livelihood and educational structures in their communities.  We believe that the AFP’s “community projects” are merely a ruse to ensure that the community will not hinder the access of the big, private mining corporations to the rich mining grounds of which these areas have, and that the evacuation of the communities will also ensure that the military meets its Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) deadline of purportedly wiping out the insurgency by 2010.

In 2005 and 2007, the 58th IBPA’s occupation of the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur resulted in incidents of killings, abductions, torture, threat and harassment of individuals and families, aside from forced evacuation and destruction of the lumads’ properties and farms.

Now, in 2009, the military is again creating a humanitarian crisis in the same areas, accusing the people of being NPA members and sympathizers and forcing them to have the military’s brand of “community projects for peace and development.”

The military not only uprooted the families from their homes but also threatened their livelihoods, and their lives -- living within civilian homes, schools and other public places with their high-powered firearms, building a virtual garrison in the middle of civilians communities, enforcing strict military checkpoints, limiting the entry of food into the communities, and forcing the lumads to enlist in their paramilitary groups. Fearing for their lives, the lumads were forced to flee their communities and evacuated in the town centers where they become hungry and sick.

Presently, there are acres of unharvested farmlands in municipalities of Lianga, San Isidro and Tago, Surigao del Sur which is not accessible to the residents due to the military’s operations in the communities.

We believe that the increasing number of internally displaced persons in the country today is attributed the military’s scampering to meet their OBL agenda.  This mad worn out strategy of wiping the insurgency by “military and civic programs” is creating a humanitarian crisis in Mindanao; the Moro peoples have yet to return to their communities, and now the government troops are still uprooting  more communities in more areas of Mindnao.

We call the attention of pertinent government agencies, such as the Commission on Human Rights, the Congress to look into this military program which causes the grave consequences for the residents of Surigao del Sur and other places.

We are one with the lumads who call for the pull out of military troops from their communities, and to end Oplan Bantay Laya now. ##