CHRA challenges new PMA graduates:
Stop the militarization of Cordillera communities
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) challenges the “Bagwis” Class of 2012 of the Philippine Military Academy to respect the human rights of the citizens that they swore to protect in the face of the mercenary and fascist nature of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This is in the face of their coming graduation rites this March 18.
In a related development, the CHRA testified before the House Committee on Human Rights in the House of Representatives on March 13 for the recent cases of human rights violations in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The CHRA also submitted documented cases of militarization of communities in the Cordillera, particularly in Tubo, Abra, and urged the House of Representatives for the immediate pull out of military troops from the communities.
The congressional inquiry was a response to the cases of HRVs submitted by the CHRA to the said committee and to the Commission on Human Rights. The cases include the harassment cases against members of the Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE). The harassment cases against Kalinga and Ifugao scholars of the progressive party lists Kabataan and Gabriela were also subjected to investigation. The recent cases of militarization of communities in the Cordillera were submitted for the immediate action of the committee.
Last 2011, the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (IBPA) conducted a municipal-wide operation in Tubo, Abra concentrating on the so-called “red areas” of the municipality. These areas include Barangay Kili; Barangay TaBacDa; Sitio Batayan of Barangay Alangtin; and, Sitio Pananuman of Barangay Tubtuba.
On March 28, 2011, unidentified number of military elements from the 50th Infantry Battalion headed by certain Col. Noli Anquiliano encamped in Sitio Batayan for three days. They positioned Howitzer cannons in front of the church. This only sowed fear among the citizens and disrupted their economic activities. “The animals such as dogs and carabaos were also afraid every time they fired the cannon,” a resident said. These military elements also committed atrocious human rights violations from threat, harassment and intimidation to physical assault of innocent civilians, some of them are minors. Then, on May 22-29, they redeployed the Howitzer cannons within the Barangay Hall ground of Kili. The hall is a few meters away from the elementary school.
State security forces in the region are worse violators of children’s rights. During an eight-day investigation in the region last December 2011, New York-based organization Human Rights Watch found five cases in which “the military, in violation of Philippine and international law, had used parts of functioning schools as barracks or bases for military detachments since 2009.” The use of schools by the military lasted for periods ranging from three months to more than a year. This is an upfront violation of the Republic Act No. 7610.
President Benigno Aquino will be the guest speaker during the graduation rites of new PMA graduates. For this reason, we urge the President to order the military to pull out their troops from the communities and be held accountable for the violations they committed. ###
Jude Baggo, Secretary-General, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
Bede Sheppard, Senior Children’s Rights Researcher, Human Rights Watch