Troops staying in Kalinga homes; folks want them out

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

Despite human rights abuses 

By Kimberlie Quitasol and Alma B. Sinumlag

LUBUAGAN, Kalinga – Elements of Charlie Company, 50th Infantry Battalion are insisting on holding camp here in homes, a school and church and refusing to move out despite a dialogue between villagers of Barangay Tanglag here Sept. 21 for them to leave.
Local folks said they wanted soldiers to leave since they have committed many human rights abuses like murder against members of the community. 
Earlier in an interview with Punong Barangay Nestor Unday, soldiers arrived in their village and stayed in his house on August 2 this year.
The villagers immediately expressed their opposition to the encampment because presence of the soldiers endangers the civilian population as they are prone to attacks.
On August 5, a community meeting was held and the villagers officially registered their clamor for the government troops to pull out.
Maricris Banawag said in an interview they pointed out that armed groups including the AFP should stay 500 meters away from the village.
Elements of the Charlie Company headed by 2nd Lt. John Rey Caumban negotiated to stay for two weeks.
After two weeks, the agreement was reportedly not respected by soldiers.
When the punong barangay and other barangay officials inquired at the battalion headquarters on August 20, commander Gulliver Señeres reportedly told them their troops will not pull out because they (soldiers) will implement three objectives: recruitment of folks for Citizens Armed Geographical Unit,  Bayanihan activities, and neutralizing the community from New People’s Army influence.
According to Unday, the statement of Señeres sounded final and by hook or by crook, they will not move out.
On Sept. 16, three women sent a community invitation letter addressed to Caumban at the 50th IB headquarters in Kapanikian, Pinukpuk, Kalinga.
The letter requested presence of Caumban for a meeting in Tanglag.
Despite the absence of Caumban, the community continued the dialogue.
In a phone interview with Banawag, they presented before the soldiers headed by Corporal Catalon their reasons why they wanted the troops out of their village.
One of their reasons was the trauma the community experienced from numerous combat operations and military encampments where their human rights were repeatedly violated.
Modesto Tongdo, one of the community leaders mentioned during the dialogue that there was no reason for the soldiers to stay.
If the troop’s objective was to recruit for Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), they do not want any of the residents to enlist because experience showed that CAFGU were used as shields during combat operations.
He said Tanglag folks have their own practices of Bayanihan and they did not request for the help of the soldiers.
On July 9, a hunter was reportedly killed by the elements of the 50th IB in a nearby village of Seet, Mabaka, Tanudan.
This incident intensified their fear of the men in uniform especially that perpetrators came from the same battalion where the presently encamped soldiers belong.
Banawag said most Tanglag men are hunters and with the encampment, they (women) always fear for the lives of their husbands whenever they go to the forest.
Today, Banawag said their movements within their ancestral domain are limited due to fear.
They said they are disappointed how their clamor had been discredited by the soldiers.
Banawag said that they felt disrespected because when they pointed out that it is unlawful for soldiers to encamp in civilian homes.
Corporal Catalon reportedly retorted that it is only unlawful in the eyes of leftists like Satur Ocampo.
Banawag said as indigenous peoples, they have the right to self-determination which include whether or not they want the soldiers encamped in their village or not. “Nu met koma ania ti decision mi ket respetaren da,” (They should respect our collective decision for them to pull out) Banawag said.
Virginia Dammay, chairperson of Innabuyog, an alliance of women’s organization in the region condemned the military encampment in Tanglag and Uma of Lubuagan, Kalinga that has resulted to numerous human rights violations.
“We are highly alarmed at the government troop’s disrespect of the community position for military pull out. It is an outright violation on the tribes’ collective rights to self-determination,” Dammay said.

It is an injustice she said that villagers who hold the rights over their ancestral domain are the ones pleading for the “visitors” (soldiers) to move out of their land.


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