Karapatan condemns ‘militarization’ in Tandag

MANILA, Sept. 2, 2009— A militant group on Wednesday has asked for immediate pull-out of government troopers in Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur province.

Human rights watchdog Karapatan said that the alleged “militarization” in the area is part of the Operational Plan Bantay Laya 2 (OPLAN Bantay Laya 2), the anti-insurgency campaign of the Arroyo administration.

Karapatan secretary-general Amaryllis Hilao-Enriquez debunked the AFP’s so-called “community projects” in IP communities, saying the tribesmen thrive on their own and with no government help.

“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 OBL deadline of purportedly wiping out the insurgency by 2010,” she said.

Enriquez said cause oriented groups denounce the continued military operations of the 58th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (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.

Happening in the past

In 2005, Enriquez disclosed that 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,” she said.

The military not only uprooted the families from their homes, she said, but also threatened the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples.

“Fearing for their lives, the lumads were forced to flee their communities and evacuated in the town centers where they become hungry and sick,” the human rights advocate said.

“Mad” in wiping out insurgents

Enriquez also said 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 Mindanao,” she said. (CBCPNews.com)