Save our Schools Network stormed the gates of Camp Aguinaldo today and denounced the continuing encampment of military elements under the 68th Infantry Batallion of the 1003rd Brigade – Philippine Army in a Manobo community of Sitio Nasilaban, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod town in Davao del Norte, even after they agreed to pull out their troops and encamp away from the school and community.
The said agreement was entered into by Col. Harold Cabreros, commanding officer of the 1003rd Brigade and school administrators of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services, Inc. (MISFI) during their dialogue last November 6 which was facilitated by the Department of Education (DepEd) Region XI Regional Director.
Leaders of the lumad organization Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon have reported that instead of honouring this agreement, the military have worsened the situation by transferring from their detachment situated in the outskirts to the heart of the community. On November 8, community leaders confirmed that soldiers are now encamping in the purok hall used by Manobos for their community meetings.
“This only manifests the AFP’s abrasive nature. Not only are they violating pertinent national and international laws, which provides for the protection and safety of civilians from military encampments in populated areas, they themselves don’t honor their own words!,” said Madella Santiago, Save our Schools Network spokesperson. “As a result, children and adults alike continue to live in fear, their everyday lives ruffled by military presence.”
The network have also received reports that soldiers are now forcing community members to sign a document which would belie the claims of one community leader attesting that drunken soldiers under the same military unit went on a shooting spree last October 11-17. Datu Teody Mansimuy-at of the Salugpongan organization further added, “The soldiers have threatened us that those who will not sign the paper are no doubt NPA supporters or members themselves.”
Santiago added that such cases of military encampments and harassments are not only happening in Talaingod but also in the neighbouring communities of Surigao del Sur. On 20 October, around 1,700 Monobos from Andap Valley in Lianga, Surigao del Sur also evacuated after series of aggressive military operations in the area. Lumad community learning centers were also burned down to the ground, while teachers, students and community members were subjected to threat and intimidation by the joint elements of the 36th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Special Forces, 401st Brigade, 2nd Scout Ranger, CAFGU and paramilitary group of Calpit Egua.
Amid the new, rather regressive, development, Datu Teody remains steadfast in their struggle to free their community from the mayhem that military presence brings. “We will not cease to defend our communities, our ancestral lands, our life against the military’s intrusion”, swore Datu Teody.
The network believes that these are all results of the counter-insurgency program of the government. “The Oplan Bayanihan continues to deprive the Lumads of their rights, especially the right to education, thus we will not stop in exposing these military atrocities. We are challenging the Armed Forces of the Philippines to honour their words and adhere to the national and international laws and instruments. We call on their immediate pull-out from the communities”, ended Santiago. ###