Int’l forum calls: Spare civilians from military ops

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PEACE ADVOCATES urged the administration of President Benigno Aquino III to interfere in armed conflicts and address the issues that affect innocent civilians, to attain the just and lasting peace over the land.

Evacuees of the Ata-Manobo tribe who have sought safe haven in Davao City since April 2 from their villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, said they will not return to their homes for as long as the military continues to operate there.

In a live stream “Online Forum and Webinar” at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran in Davao City, the international and national church and civil society groups, focused on the Ata-Manobo evacuees of Talaingod town, called on the government to uphold the safety and dignity of every person even in armed conflict.


Among the groups are the Union del Barrio, the Union of Progressive Iranian, the International Action Center, Bayan Southern California, Ministries of the United Methodist Church California-Pacific Conference and other member organizations of Panaghiusa (a network for peace and justice in Mindanao).

Church and civil society groups held the online forum to show solidarity with over a thousand Talaingod Manobos who have evacuated their homes in Talaingod in Davao del Norte since April 2.

The gunbattle between the government forces and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in some areas in Talaingod in Davao del Norte forced 206 families or 927 individuals, of which 503 are children, to flee and leave their hometown earlier this month.

Delegates of East Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference (EMPAC) Board of Church and Society Committee on Ethnic Concerns, in their pastoral statement in support to the call to stop the ongoing militarization herein Mindanao, said the government must ensure the humanitarian protection and basic needs of those affected.

The delegates in the statement are as follows: Vilma Ariola, EMPAC chairperson of Committee on Resolution; Rev. Camilo Balgona, EMPAC chairperson of Committee on Ethnic Concern; Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, of Davao Episcopal; Rev. Israel Paint, of EMPAC church and society; and Rev. Abraham Perasol, of Northeast–Davao.

"We are also calling the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front (NDF) to resume the stalled peace talks to address these problems that affects the populace, especially this indigenous people. We call for an immediate indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation for affected civilians," delegates said.

The delegates added that the government has the primary obligation to undertake rehabilitation to bring the displaced families back to normalcy and security.

It also said that instead of spending billions on the war, they are appealing to provide basic services and implement asset and social justice reforms that is due to citizens.

ALSO READ: Militants, evacuees call for military pull-out

"We call the entire church to support and advocate the peace process in general. Articulate the people's ante in the peace process, heeding their clamor for basic social reform, transformation and national development. Only social justice can solve a social problem, not calls for war," delegates said.

The peace negotiation between the GPH and NDF had been on and off for the past 27 years. For these years, both parties only agreed on the human rights issue through signing a Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).

NDFP Panel chair Luis Jalandoni, in a video talk on Talaingod, Civil War and Peace Talk for Community leaders of the United Methodist Church and Bayan–USA, said because of some violations by the Aquino regime of the peace agreements, the peace talks are stalled.

Jalandoni added that they had been disappointed by the statements of the Philippine president and others in his administration regarding the peace talks, including the ceasefire pre-condition and a new deadline set by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to eliminate the insurgency.

However, Jalandoni said the NDFP supports the Norwegian Government's proposal for holding informal talks in Oslo in late May 2014. He added that the peace advocate organizations in the Philippines and abroad also support the holding of such talks, though the Aquino regime has not responded.

"You can continue your strong campaign of solidarity for the Ata-Manobos and other indigenous people struggling for their ancestral domain and resisting militarization. You can also help in campaigning for the release of Tiamzon and Austria and other NDFP consultants," Jalandoni said.

"You can also campaign for the release of Andrea Rosal and demand for the resumption of peace negotiation between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and Aquino government based on the binding past peace agreements," Jalandoni added.

Jalandoni said despite all the negative indications on the government side regarding the peace talks, the NDF is ready to resume peace talks.

He added that suggested action of “No US taxes for human rights violation” is very timely and will be effective in supporting the Filipino people's struggle for a just and lasting peace.

The Ata-Manobo evacuees have called for a pullout of military operations in their villages.

“Kami nanawagan na ipa-pull out ang sundalo sa kabukiran kay kining among mga lumad, wala mi naanad dire sa syudad. Didto mi naanad sa among lugar sa kabukiran (We are asking the government to pull out the military from Talaingod because we are not used to the lifestyle here in the city. We are used to living in our place),” said Datu Duloman Dawsay.

Datu Duloman, spokesperson of Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Igkanogon, said that while they long to go home after weeks of staying at the Haran House, they will not do so if the military continues to operate in their area.

The evacuees claim aerial bombing, massive harassment, and encampment in places where the soldiers are not supposed to put up camps. There are those from their tribe who have sought refuge in Bukidnon.

The Lumads are still in fear of what was done to an elderly tribe member named Ubonay Botod Manlaon, who was held by soldiers for seven days and forced to guide the military in their counter-insurgency operations.

The Ata-Manobos, led by Datu Duloman Dawsay, are asking the government to listen to their call of pulling out the military from Talaingod so that they can return to their homes and live in peace with their families. (Ivy C. Tejano with April Uyan, Mariz Lindo and Shiela Napal, UIC Interns)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 17, 2014.

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