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CRC hits AFP over massive exodus of Manobos in Talaingod, Davao del Norte

Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) strongly condemns the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the atrocities and human rights violations victimizing residents   of the far-flung communities of Talaingod town, Davao del Norte resulting to massive exodus of Ata Manobo tribe recently. 

 

“We are saddened by this latest news of massive evacuation concerning our lumad brothers and sisters from the hinterlands of Talaingod town in Davao del Norte. Over a thousand members of Ata Manobo tribe including women and children were forced to leave their homes and livelihood behind, in order to escape from the wrath of the 60th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army’s (IBPA) military operations against the communist insurgents New People’s Army (NPA),” said Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC Executive Director.

 

Citing the data gathered by CRC Southern Mindanao Regional Office, Ruiz said the military arrived in the sitios of Talaingod on March 4 and continued to pour in since then. Accordingly, the community members were subjected to rights violations perpetrated by the military including harassment, threat, intimidation, interrogation, abduction, red-tagging, food blockade, divestment of properties, indiscriminate firing and aerial bombings and forcible evacuation. 

 

“The military encampment and their consequent atrocities are very disquieting. Soldiers continue to wreak havoc and create a gigantic wave of terror among the lumads, especially on women and children who were constantly afraid, distressed and anxious.  Reportedly, a 12-day old baby died due to illnesses aggravated by the dismal condition of the evacuation last April 2. On the other hand, two women gave birth during the travel while another two-month old pregnant mother had a miscarriage due to fear and stress from the sounds of military gunfire.” 

 

The members of the Ata-Manobo tribe are staying in Davao City while others sought refuge in the forest away from the soldiers. With their farms and livelihood left behind, Ruiz explained that the evacuees suffered daily from lack of access to food, water and shelter. Most of them are sick especially the younger children. In addition, the vicious military presence has affected the psychosocial development of children, rendering them frightened and insecure in their own communities. 

 

“The Lumad children and their communities have long been deprived of their right to decent living due to poverty and lack of basic social services and now they are being deprived of their right to live peacefully in their ancestral domain. Isn’t this a sign of cold heartedness of our government? Needless to say, the recent forcible evacuation affirmed that even children are not spared from the violence of the military operations. The situation further compounded their poverty and highlighted the scarcity of social and welfare services including health and education; and yet lumad children are the constant victims of massive and aggressive military operations,” Ruiz added. 

 

Ruiz further explained that President BS Aquino’s counter-insurgency Oplan bayanihan have been liable for the continuing massive evacuations in different communities brought by militarization including the siege in Zamboanga that forcibly displaced 23, 513 families or around 138,000 individuals. She added that the victims are still displaced as the government prevents them to go back to their communities and rebuild their houses while over a hundred individuals died due to various illnesses. 

 

“We fear that the recent case of forcible evacuation in Talaingod will be met by government’s futile response. As child rights advocates, CRC urges President BS Aquino to immediately and appropriately respond to the needs of the victims particularly by commanding the AFP units to pull-out from the lumad communities as well as investigate all the cases of human rights violations. Furthermore, we demand the government to resume the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), address the root causes of armed conflict and respect the rights of the Indigenous People to land and to self determination.” ended Ruiz.###