Karapatan writes UN expert on IDPs as military operations displace thousands in Mindanao

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Krapatan photo of displaced lumad.

MANILA, Philippines — The human rights group Karapatan has written the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons even as it reported more displacements in Mindanao from military operations.

In the letter of allegation submitted to the UN expert Cecilia Jimenez, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay raised “the cases of bombings and forced evacuations carried out by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s government under its counter-insurgency programs, Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan.”

Palabay cited six specific cases of displacement from July 31 last year to March 31 this year:

  1. Forced evacuation of 300 residents of Brgy. Hinimbangan, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte
  2. Forced evacuation of 691 Residents of Maddela, Quirino
  3. Forced evacuation of 138 individuals of Purok 5, Barangay Parasanon, Maragusan, Compostela Valley and of 978 individuals of Barangay Mahayahay, Maragusan, Compostela Valley
  4. Forced evacuation of 233 residents of Sitio Alimpulos, Barangay Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon
  5. Forced evacuation of 218 individuals (43 families) of Purok 8, Barangay Zillovia, Talacogon, Agusan Del Sur
  6. Bombing and forced evacuation of 720 residents from Sitio Tangis and Sitio Solutan, Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani

But just last week, a separate Karapatan statement released Wednesday said at least 86 families in Barangay Dominga in Davao City’s Calinan district and another 5,000 persons in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao province were forced to flee their homes by military bombings and operations.

Palabay also said reports on the situation in Calinan they have gathered since May 6 document extrajudicial killings, torture, and threats and harassment of residents.

Karapatan said farmer Rodolfo Dagahuya, 33, died when troops of the 3rd Infantry Battalion’s Task Force Haribon strafed his and other homes in May 9.

The next day, the soldiers searched several houses and allegedly mauled a resident of Sitio Kibaton identified only as Lascuna, while residents said the military dropped at least six bombs in the community.

“On May 11, barangay kagawad Dennis Epal, together with other residents of Sitio Cabagtukan evacuated to Barangay Dacudao. While they were on their way to the next village, Epal was interrogated by the military and threatened to be tortured. They were prevented from going out of their barangay, their movements being monitored by the military,” the rights group said.

In Maguindanao, the displacements happened after air strikes were conducted against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Shariff Aguak and Datu Saudi Ampatuan on May 8, Karapatan’s Southern Mindanao office reported.

In her letter to Jimenez, Palabay said among the other abuses committed by the military were “encampment in communities” and “indiscriminate firing.”

“More often than not, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) have accused community residents as well as legitimate and progressive organizations of harboring and supporting the New People’s Army (NPA), thereby legitimizing their threats, harassment and attacks against these communities. Among those affected are women, children and the elderly,” Palabay said.

“It has also been observed that the AFP seemingly concocted and staged encounters with the NPA to justify their continued operations and presence in the communities. Witnesses have seen them indiscriminately firing even without NPA rebels in the area,” she added.

Besides these, “the AFP have also spread fake news, press releases and blatant and incredible lies to cover up the human rights violations they have committed in the communities,” the Karapatan officer said.

Aside from Jimenez, Karapatan has also backed calls for UN experts to investigate extrajudicial killings, including the thousands of deaths in the Duterte government’s war on drugs, and attacks on human rights defenders.