Mindanao fact-finding team anticipates intensified harassment on day 2 mission to uncover more rights violations against farmers

Anakpawis Rep. Ka Ayik Casilao and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro face soldiers manning checkpoint in Mindanao.Anakpawis Rep. Ka Ayik Casilao and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro face soldiers manning checkpoint in Mindanao.

Tagum City, Davao Del Norte – Notwithstanding perceived heightened harassment by state forces, the fact-finding groups of the International Fact-finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao (IFSM) to investigate various forms of rights violations particularly among the peasants and indigenous people shall proceed as planned to hold area interviews and focus-discussion groups with victims and their relatives.

The IFSM led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) are joined by lawmakers under the Makabayan Coalition, namely Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao, ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago. It is also joined by former lawmakers, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and former Anakpawis representatives Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano and Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap.

On the first day of the 3-day mission, after hurdling over numerous checkpoints and harassments along major highways, Makabayan solons, with leaders from various peasant organizations and international delegates from Asian rights organizations and local groups successfully held interviews and documented cases of human rights violations such as extra judicial killings, forced surrenders, harassments and forcible evacuation and displacement of farming communities. Alongside, the groups for the Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions successfully reached their target areas amid repeated incidents of harassment by military units at various check points.

Casilao said that elements of the Philippine Army will organize a “bogus” peace rally.

“We received information from local peasant organizations that the 71st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, camping at Brgy. Anibongan near the elementary school are planning to stage a bogus peace rally, purportedly to undermine the mission. They have been camping at the community since Monday this week conducting mass clearing operations and to parade supposed rebel surrenderees,” Casilao said.

He added that the 71st IBPA was notoriously responsible for the torture and attempted murder against two small scale miners last November 2017. The victims filed complaints to the Commission on Human Rights. It was the 1st documented rights violation case under martial law in Mindanao.

Moreover, ACT Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro noted that during the first quarter of 2018, the government had been bragging about the spike of the wholesale surrender of supposed rebels. Just recently, President Duterte issued Administrative Order No. 10, creating the Task Force Balik Loob in the guise of reintegrating supposed rebel surrenderees.

“Congress should immediately look into the allocation and the guidelines on the use of funds of by this Task Force. We are afraid that such a corruption-prone program will only put our national funds to waste. We will not allow a fake peace program rewarding the military for the so-called surrender of fake rebel returnees to succeed with this grand scheme of pocketing tax payer’s money. This fund ought to be genuinely benefitting the people through basic social services,” the teacher lawmaker said.

KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos strongly condemned the vilification of mission members upon their arrival in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City, Davao Del Norte, yesterday when they were met with a banner made of rice sacks along the road, which says that the IFFSM are not welcome.

“Such petty acts of harassment will not deter members of the mission to push through. More so, the imminent intensified harassment by the 71st IBPA of our delegation to day will definitely not stop us from uncovering the extent of the rights abuses among peasants and indigenous peoples defending their right to land in the Southern Mindanao Region,” he said.

Casilao and Castro appealed to the public and various sectors for support and to expose the grim authenticities being unearthed by the IFSM as a contributive measure for the human rights protection of farmers, indigenous peoples and other rural-based sectors. The two lawmakers avowed to push for congressional inquiries on the plight of Mindanao farmers. ###

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