Statement from the
Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor on the Militarization in
"We were threatened by soldiers that our
community will be transformed into another Marag Valley and Tabbak
. They told us that all of us were members of the New People's Army.
They showed us pictures of community destruction. They even told
us that they were going to bring in soldiers who were trained by
- Pananuman resident
The State has again made its terrorism felt in the
tri-boundary area of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mt. Province.
On March 12, 2008, elements of the Bravo and Charlie
Company of the 50th Infantry Battalion under the 503rd Infantry
Brigade headed by Lt. Dalven Abdul Rashid Avila and Lt. June Pedregoza,
militarized the communities. Upon their arrival, aerial bombings
and mortar shellings were conducted around the community. Mortar
cannons were stationed and launched from within the residential
area of Pananuman, Tubtuba, Tubo, Abra. The community was hamletted
for a month. People experienced varying degrees of harassments,
threats, and intimidation. Their houses were illegally searched
and their properties divested and destroyed. The church and dap-ay
were desecrated. The military camped within the residential areas
thereby endangering the lives of all civilians.
These are among the grave human rights violations
that were documented during the fact finding mission on May 2-5,
The military operations conducted are under the
Arroyo government's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya
(OBL) II and are also intended to prepare the community for the
entry of mining explorations.
Human Rights Violations
We condemn the grave disrespect of human rights
in this community which almost pushed them to evacuate again from
their own village.
From the first week of March to mid-April, the community
lived in fear. They were not allowed to tend their swidden farms.
They were not allowed to buy enough food supplies to adequately
stock their remote village. They were labeled as members or leaders
of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and NPA sympathizers, making them
targets of military operations as laid down in the OBL. Two cows
and other farm animals were butchered by the soldiers without permission.
The homes of the civilians were illegally searched. Some houses
were forcibly opened and some of the people's properties were taken.
For five days (March 22 - 27), bombs were dropped in their communities
destroying their forests and rice fields. When the aerial bombings
stopped, mortar cannons, which were stored on the school grounds
adjacent residential houses, were fired from the edges of the community
for almost 24 hours straight, putting the life and security of people
in great peril. Residents reportedly suffered from severe trauma.
Even children were not spared from being harassed, threatened and
The residents were also not allowed to search for
Lakay Mariano Galisen, a sixty-year-old community member who insisted
on tending his farm and went missing during the operations. The
community leaders had to repeatedly plead with the government troops
to be allowed to search for him. He was later found last April 1
near his farm already in a state of decomposition.
International Humanitarian Laws violations
On March 24, 2008, there was an encounter between
the government troops and the NPA that resulted to casualties on
both sides. Immediately after the encounter, Lt. Avila was heard
bragging about cutting an NPA member into pieces. He threatened
community leaders that he will do the same to them if they do not
stop supporting the NPA or give them information about the communist
group. One of the soldiers informed the community that they left
one NPA dead in the mountains.
The indigenous peoples which inhabit the tri-boundary
have a high regard and respect for the dead. The community people
therefore asked Lt. Avila to allow them to retrieve the body of
the slain NPA and give him a decent burial or bring him to his family,
but Avila adamantly prevented them from doing so. Lt. Avila instead
directed the community men to retrieve the body of a soldier who
was killed in the same incident in the area where the NPA was also
later found. The men were even ordered to clear an area in the community
to serve as helipad during the military retrieval operations.
The residents were only able to locate the body
of the NPA member and give it proper burial three weeks after the
During the fact finding mission, the NPA member
was exhumed, identified as 27-year old Sammy Rey Cayago and retrieved
by his family.
The examination of Cayago's remains showed that the head was severed.
The community people stated that they found the head completely
separated from the body. Villagers who found the body noted that
the head seemed to have been chopped off at the neck. The back of
the skull was severely crushed and fragmented. They also found a
big rock nearby with blood on it which they surmised to have been
used to crush the victim's skull. The right foot and right arm were
We strongly denounce the desecration of Cayago's remains and the
AFP's refusal for the body to be retrieved and given a decent burial.
These are blatant violations of the Protocols of War embodied in
various Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Laws as
well as in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect on Human Rights
and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHIHL). We find this highly
Not another Marag, Not another Tabbak
We join the communities in their petitions and resolutions
strongly calling for:
1. A stop to militarization of the communities in
the triboundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur.
2. Government troops to respect human rights and international humanitarian
3. Justice for the victims of human rights violations - Investigation
and prosecution of
the human rights violations committed by the government troops under
the leadership of Lt. Dalven Abdul Rashid Avila and Lt. June Pedregoza;
4. a Stop to all forms of development aggression in the area especially
the mining projects.
For decades, the communities in this area have been
subjected to militarization that has violated their rights and disrupted
their lives. We say no to another Marag, to another Tabbak. We demand
a stop to Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.
We assert that the people's rights should be respected
and that they be allowed to live in their village free from state
Atty. Reynaldo Cortes
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
Atty. Mary Ann Bayang
National Program Coordinator
Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor