Pullout military and paramilitary troops in peasant and indigenous communities

In a picket at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo today, Karapatan raised the alarm over the series of forced evacuation of hundreds peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao due to intense military operations in their ancestral lands.

“In a span of one week, three incidents of forced evacuation and other rights violations in Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, in Compostela Valley and in Bukidnon were reported by Karapatan chapters and people’s organizations. These are mineral-rich areas targeted for large-scale mining or with existing mining operations. These are areas where there is strong people’s opposition against mining operations by destructive companies,” said Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Karapatan spokesperson and convenor of End Impunity Alliance.

Palabay commented that such military operations aggressively being carried out by troops and para-military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were prodded and legitimized by Pres. Benigno Aquino III when he approved in October 2011 the creation and deployment of militias known as Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary Units (SCAA).

“Aquino does not only encourage the few big businesses in exploiting to the hilt the country’s mineral resources. He also gives the signal fire for the bombings, indiscriminate firing, killings, threats to life and livelihood and other rights violations in these peasant and indigenous communities. Such is P-Noy’s brand of ‘development’ via his counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay.

Karapatan documented the following incidents which occurred between February to March 2012

1. The evacuation of Lumad-Mamanwa due to indiscriminate bombing, strafing and airstrikes in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte by the 402nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. On February 28, some 58 families from Alegria, Surigao del Norte evacuated to Bgy. Ombon. On March 14, 2012, some 78 Mamanwa families with about 345 individuals left their homes in Kitcharao and in Cabadbaran City and evacuated in Butuan City.

The mountains between Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur have large gold deposits.  Among those with mining interests in these areas are: Minimax Gold Exploration, SR Mining Inc., and the Lopez owned First Gen Hydro Electric Corp. which is currently conducting a survey in Agusan del Norte.

2. The evacuation of the clan and other community members of slain lumad leader, Jimmy Liguyon, after receiving death threats from Aldy Salusad of the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform (NIPAR). Salusad and NIPAR owned the killing of Liguyon on March 5. NIPAR, which is under the 8th IB-PA, has threatened community members for “seeking justice for Jimmy’s death.” The evacuees are now in the provincial capitol of Bukidnon.

Salusad is identified with the San Fernando Matigsalug Tribal Datus (Sanmatrida), which has pending applications for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and mining operations in Dao. Liguyon was Dao’s barangay captain. He actively campaigned against the entry of mining companies in their community, as well as against their operations in the region.

3.  The evacuation of some 304 individuals from Bgy. Tibagon, Pantukan, Compostela Valley since March 18, due to the hamletting of their communities by the 71st IB. Other rights violations committed in the area that led to the evacuation were the occupation of civilian houses, interrogation of residents to force them to admit that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and other forms of threats and harassment.

Several large-scale mining corporations operate in Pantukan such as the Russell Mines and Minerals-St. Augustine Gold Copper in Brgy. Kingking, Pantukan and the Napnapan Mineral Resources, among others.

Karapatan called for the immediate pull out of the military and para-military units in the civilian communities to enable residents to return to their homes.