The NDFP-Mindanao joins the Filipino people and the rest of the world in celebrating the 67th International Human Rights Day in reaffirmation of our commitment to human rights against all forms of the US-Aquino III regime’s brutality in the name of its imperialist master and the local ruling classes. In their desperate attempt to suppress the ever growing people’s resistance and to render the revolutionary movement irrelevant, it employs the Internal Security Plan ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ (OPB), a brutal military suppression campaign patterned after the US ‘counterinsurgency’ strategy.
With barely six months to go before Aquino III’s term ends, the OPB has become more vicious under the repackaged ‘whole of nation initiative’ approach, which uses ‘social pressures’ from all sectors of society to isolate and defeat the revolutionary movement. This resulted in the most unspeakable of human rights violations, terrorizing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, particularly the Lumads, the Moro, peasants, workers, youth and students, church people and even the middle sectors. Ironically however, consequent to the OPB’s intensified brutality, the US-Aquino III regime only further isolated itself from the people.
The human rights abuse record of the US-Aquino III regime is appalling. Victims of extra-judicial killings from July 2010 to September 2015 stand at 297; 215 of whom are peasants, while 78 belong to indigenous peoples. One hundred forty-seven (147) of these cases occurred in Mindanao. There are 31 cases of enforced disappearances and at least 15 cases of massacre, which involve around 80 individuals, 10 of whom are children. Despite Aquino III’s rhetoric of ‘justice and peace,’ none of these cases have actually been resolved, and more continue to take place with impunity.
The two AFP area commands in Mindanao comprising of the EASTMINCOM and the WESTMINCOM have escalated militarization in the island, giving rise to numerous atrocities. Around 60 battalions or over 60% of the AFP’s effective combat forces are currently deployed in Mindanao. Desperate, AFP-PNP officials and troops employ more savage techniques, such as using local bandit groups that it has trained and armed to identify and summarily execute Lumad leaders, activists and advocates, burn villages and wreak other forms of terrorism. This was the case in the September 1 Han-ayan massacre, which triggered strong national and international condemnation.
This similarly happened in Pangantucan, Bukidnon, where a Matigsalog-Talaandig family of six was brutally massacred by AFP operating troops; only the youngest member, a boy of 14, was able to escape and recount the bloody incident. Cases of massacre and extra-judicial killings during Aquino III’s term also happened in other parts of Mindanao, and, sadly, none have been duly served justice, including celebrated cases such the murder of Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio and the Maguindanao Massacre.
In the name of large-scale mining and agri-plantations and ‘counter-insurgency’, hundreds of thousands of Lumads, Moro and peasants all over Mindanao have been repeatedly dislocated, forced to evacuate due to incessant AFP military operations and terror campaign. All mainland provinces in the island, including the three Moro island provinces, suffered both short-term and prolonged enforced dislocation, such as the recent cases in the 7 towns of Surigao del Sur, Gigaquit and Claver in Surigao del Norte, Arakan and Magpet in North Cotabato, Talaingod in Davao del Norte, San Fernando, Kitaotao and Cabanglasan in Bukidnon, Zamboanga City, Maguindanao and other Moro provinces. Massive and prolonged dislocation of people in Mindanao has intensified under Benigno Aquino III.
In a ruthless campaign, the AFP attacked hinterland schools, depriving communities of the education that Lumads and peasants have long dreamed of, which the government miserably failed to provide. In Mindanao, there have been 214 cases of attacks against Lumad schools, in the form of burning of buildings, forcible closures, occupation by the military, killing or harassment of administrators, teachers and students, and tagging as communist or NPA schools. Apart from this, AFP troops have violated international war protocols sparing civilian structures, such as churches, community centers and other civilian facilities, by using them as barracks and tactical posts.
To avoid humiliation during the APEC Leader’s Summit in Metro Manila, all the AFP forces in Mindanao were mobilized to preempt any attacks by the NPA against multinational corporations and other military targets. Particularly in Caraga, where there is heavy concentration of multinational investments, aside from mobilizing AFP infantry battalions, its Philippine Air Force indiscriminately bombed and strafed hinterland communities in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Norte, which resulted in the destruction of farms and property and the forcible evacuation of Lumad communities.
The suppression of basic rights is also most acute against the open and legal mass movement in Mindanao. Under Aquino III, extra-judicial killings, political harassment through surveillance, the filing of trumped up cases, issuance of arrest warrants and illegal arrests and detention against mass leaders and activists have intensified. And, in the guise of the OPB’s urban pacification campaign, the COPD (Community Organizing for Peace and Development) is launched in schools and urban poor communities to cripple the militancy of the legal mass movement.
In Mindanao, the human rights of national minorities are the most abused and violated because, primarily, they are victims of the chauvinism of the majority. Particularly, the Moro masses are ones hardest hit by state fascism with impunity. Moro communities continue to be subjected to massive AFP military operations, with the participation of US troops, in the guise of the ‘anti-terror’ campaign, resulting in the enforced evacuation of hundreds of thousands, as in the Mamasapano incident and subsequent operations against the BIFF. Reports of summary executions and massacres among the Moro masses often do not reach, are toned down or even distorted in the media.
However, the US-Aquino III regime’s militarism has miserably failed to deter both the armed and non-armed resistance of the people in Mindanao. On one hand, the Lumad and the peasants, together with the New People’s Army, daringly fought back to defend ancestral lands and the rights of the people. On the other, militant open protests, with an ever-growing participation by a broad spectrum in society, as shown form example by the Manilakbayan, are surging. Moreover, the pacification effort of the regime against the Moro people through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has only rekindled the armed resistance of the Bangsamoro.
As we reaffirm our commitment to human rights, we must now more than ever unite to protest and resist against the continuing human rights violations by the US-Aquino III regime.#
(Sgd.) Ka Oris