SANDUGO Kilusan ng Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya, saw that the NPA’s lifting of its unilateral ceasefire was bound to happen. SANDUGO was holding its 2nd National Council meeting when the New People’s Army declared the lifting of its unilateral ceasefire effective on February 11. The SANDUGO Council was not surprised at the lifting as AFP atrocities was the subject of many of the reports from our organizations on the ground.
It seemed that the AFP was not in a unilateral ceasefire at all. It was business as usual and its attacks against the people continued. Shortly after the ceasefire declarations of both parties, our communities have already cried foul against the AFP’s continuing attacks on us. “Si Presidente lang ba ang naka ceasefire, hindi ang AFP?” (Is this ceasefire only for the President and not the AFP?) our brothers and sisters asked out of confusion.
We saw how the AFP took advantage of the NPA’s ceasefire and the ongoing formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), to enter our communities, occupy our schools, barangay halls, health centers and disrupt our lives and livelihood. We saw the soldiers harass and investigate our tribespeople and labelus as supporters or members of the NPA.
The reported recent rights violations against national minorities are as follows:
• The killings of Lumad leaders
o T’boli tribal chieftain Venie Diamante on January 5 in Koronadal City
o Lumad-Mamanwa Veronico Delamente on January 20 in Brgy. Cagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Norte
o Ibabawon leader Jimmy Saipan who was killed on the eve of the Sandugo’s formation during 2016 Manilakbayan.
• The enforced disappearances of Dabis Mogul and Macky Bael both Lumad of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat for opposition to the expansion of Consunji Inc’s expansion of its mango plantation.
• The vilification and harassment of parents and teachers of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS) in the municipality of Palimbang has resulted in the disruption of classes for hundreds of Dulangan Manobo school children.
• Forced attendance of Subanen communities in assemblies initiated by the 53rd Infantry Battalion. They were subjected to interrogation and accused as NPA rebels in the area.
• In Caraga region and Northern Mindanao regions, the 29th, 23rd, 36th, 75th Infantry Battalions and AFP Special Forces have continue to wreak havoc in Manobo, Talaandig, Mamanwa and Banwaon communities. These military forces used and encamped in community health centers, barangay hall, day care centers.
• Evacuees from Brgy. White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon have yet to come home for the threats to the residents remain.
• In Ag-agama, Western Uma in Lubuagan Kalinga, the 50th IBPA remained encamped in civilian houses. Civilians bear the atmosphere of fear with drunken soldiers roaming around sporting their guns and on several occasions accompanied with indiscriminate firing. The community has prepared a resolution calling for the pull-out of the military from their community.
• In Sallapadan, Abra, in September, while conducting patrol operations in search of the New People’s Army, the 24th IB encamped in residential communities. The soldiers deceitfully announced that the unilateral ceasefire had already lapsed. In Ifugao, from July to September, around 300 soldiers from the 54th IBPA and 77th IB CAFGU conducted military operations in Tinoc and Asipulo where they set up a patrol base in the elementary school and occupied houses in sitio Cocoy, Barangay Tukucan. Similar AFP occupations of communities were reported in Cervantes, Quirino and Tubo.
Of utmost concern is the report that the Moro civilian population suffers the brunt of the ongoing all out war of the GRP against the Abu Sayyaf and other extremist groups. There is the need for independent fact-finding to ascertain the extent of the damage and rights violations against civilians.
While SANDUGO was not surprised by the NPA’s lifting of its unilateral ceasefire, we continue to support the ongoing peace negotiations between the two parties. Ceasefire should not be a precondition to negotiations. This was shown during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos when a number of important agreements between the NDFP and the GRP was signed even without a ceasefire.
We continue to support the peace talks, especially since we actively participated in the consultations towards the drafting of a separate section on the recognition of the rights of the national minorities to their ancestral lands and territories in the NDFP draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.
In the meantime, SANDUGO will continue to resist national oppression and defend our right to our ancestral lands and self-determination. ###