The ISM Report
International Solidarity Mission: A Journey of Solidarity in Defense of the People Resisting Oppression In Southern Mindanao - May 14 to 19, 2009.
We, party-list lawmakers, peace advocates, human rights activists, students, and health professionals—participated in the three-day International Solidarity Mission (ISM) held in the areas of New Bataan, Compostela and Monkayo towns in Compostela Valley province; Paquibato district in Davao City; Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur; and Tampakan, South Cotabato.
The ISM, composed of 350 participants saw the grave repercussions of the counter-insurgency operations implemented by the 10th Infantry Division of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the region.
The intensity, scope and strategy of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL- 2) reverberates in the testimonies of the victims of extra-judicial killings, assault, torture and curtailment of fundamental civil and political rights to free movement, free association and free speech of civilians in the aforementioned conflict areas.
We heard from the children their harrowing experiences and their continuing trauma as militarization and dislocation affect their communities.
Complementing, if not aggravating, the ill-effects of the pattern of unsolved killings of civilians is the fact that law enforcement and prosecution institutions remain largely inutile and are a failure in the attainment of justice for the victims.
The number of extra-judicial killings in the region has not declined in the last eight years, but had in fact increased with a total of 100. In the year 2001, only four were listed, by the end of 2008, 17 were listed.
Between the years 2001-2006, the number of extra-judicial killings posted 11 victims a year. From April 2006 to April 2009, there was an average of 16 cases of extra-judicial killings. An average of 100 individuals per day was listed as victims of human rights abuses in Southern Mindanao in a study of the 11-month period last year.
Military documents obtained by the ISM reveal the AFP’s intent to tag civilians and progressive groups as non-military targets in its counter-insurgency operations.
In the Southern Mindanao Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) powerpoint presentation which contained the 10th ID’s “Holistic approach in dismantling guerilla front committees,” a list of priority tasks includes the employment of so-called Special Counter-Urban Terrorist (SCOUT) Teams to operate in the urban centers that are to be composed of the police, military intelligence battalion (MIB), and military intelligence group 11 (MIG 11) operatives.
Their task is “to prevent the CT’s expansion into the urban centers.” Thus, the alarming rate of killings in Southern Mindanao comes as no coincidence. Extrajudicial killings are being implemented consistent to the national policy of “physically eliminating perceived enemies of the state”, regardless of their political affiliation.
The local police authorities view the deaths of Rebelyn and Danilo Pitao, Celso Pojas, Danilo Cualbar, Ludenio Monzon, Maximo Baranda, and Eliezer Billanes as mere statistics in the list of unsolved crimes in the region. Police authorities looking into these killings cannot provide decent information as to the progress of their investigation.
The slay attempt of banana plantation union leader Liza Alo as the ISM was being held in Compostela last Saturday May 16 was a glaring indication of how armed elements most likely affiliated and backed by the 66th IB and the 1001st Brigade of the 10th ID rule Compostela under a climate of impunity, supplanting local civilian authorities.
We saw the impact of the creation of the Barangay Defense Systems (BDS) on local governance, on the residents and on the over-all peace and order situation in these areas. On the whole, the military has taken over and transformed New Bataan town as a military garrison undermining civilian supremacy in this 4th class municipality.
In Sta. Cruz town, Davao del Sur, residents of barangay Zone 1 who were forced to become officers of the BDS organized by the 39th IB recounted their confusion as to the relevance of the BDS. Various human rights violations occurred in the formation of the BDS and its operations in the town.
In Compostela, where five unions are affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Union (NAFLU-KMU), workers told the ISM of the harassment and active campaigning for disaffiliation by the WIPER (Workers for Industrial Peace and Economic Reforms).
In Paquibato, the military has campaigned against residents forming a peasant alliance and intends to reorganize an existing association of motorcycle drivers.
Preventing civilians to join and affiliate with associations was also the intent of the Task Force Davao, a composite of the 60th Ib, 3rd Special Forces, Scout Rangers operating in Paquibato district, Davao City.
Residents interviewed by the ISM opposed the relocation in Diwalwal as this would greatly affect their livelihood, notwithstanding the fact that the relocation site is not suitable for farming and this shall pave the way for the entry of the ZTE large-scale mining operation.
While the people are subjected to grave human rights violations, the two big foreign companies based in Polomolok and Tampakan towns in South Cotabato are well secured under the Arroyo administration.
The 27th IB ensures that they are at the forefront of the DolePhil instigated vilification seminars against the union, and at the forefront of Xtrata in collusion with the local government units which engages in bribery, deceit and the use of force to coerce certain anti-mining local officials, tribal and community leaders.
We are concerned that as the 10th ID continues to deploy enlisted personnel, intelligence operatives, and employ local goons or armed elements and other military assets in the course of their counter-insurgency operations, more civilians will be victimized, more extra-judicial killings will occur, more cases of human rights abuses will continue.
The Arroyo government is continuing its campaign to vilify legal organizations, militant leaders, peasant groups in a bid to decisively defeat the revolutionary movement and to pursue widely-opposed large-scale mining projects in select conflict areas.
In the process, the 10th ID Eastern Mindanao Command has made a travesty of the justice system (i.e., by way of pinning the blame on the victims themselves), undermined civilian authority and supremacy and distorted the definition of peace and order by instituting authoritarian rule in far-flung villages.
In view of the foregoing, the ISM asserts for justice and accountability of the government authorities to protect human rights and human dignity and restoration of genuine peace in the affected areas of conflict. The ISM specifically recommends the following:
a. Withdrawal of AFP troops in the areas, most especially in civilian-populated areas, public places and other structures manned by civilian authorities.
b. Creation of credible investigative bodies to look into the cases of extrajudicial killings specially the cases of Rebelyn Pitao, Celso Pojas and Eliezer Billanes
c. Witness protection program must be seriously implemented to encourage more witnesses to come out in the open
d. Delist member of BDS and officers in the affected barangays, if not, totally dismantle Barangay Defense System structures
e. Dismantle WIPER in Compostela and filing of reports of labor rights violations to appropriate international bodies (i.e., International Labor Organization)
f. Dismissal from office of military officials under the 10th ID especially those assigned in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao City where there is a high concentration of extrajudicial killings
g. Protection and unconditional support to the families of victims of extra-judicial killings.
h. Stop the vilification campaign against leaders and members of legal and progressive people’s organizations both in the urban and rural areas.
Immediate implementation of the planned on-site investigation by Davao City Sangguniang Panglunsod and Commission on Human Rights on the human rights violations committed against the civilians of Paquibato District.
Rep. Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna
Rep. Rafael Mariano, Anakpawis
Rep. Joel Maglungsod, Anakpawis
Rep. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela Women’s Party
Marie Hilao Enriquez, Karapatan
Delegates from Australia, South Korea, Argentina, Malaysia, Germany
Joel Virador, Peace Consultant, City Government of Davao
Exodus for Justice and Peace
Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao
Urban Integrated Health Services
Community Based Health Services
Promotion of Church People’s Response
Student Christian Movement of the Philippines
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Sisters’ Association in Mindanao
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Davao
Kilusang Mayo Uno
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas