Cordillerans get used to human rights violations

BAGUIO CITY — “Nairuam kamin iti giyera. Saan kamin nga agbuteng iti bomba. Anya pay ngay aramiden mi? Buybuyaen mi laengen, ah,” (We are used to the war. We are no longer afraid of bombs. What else do we do, but watch?)

A community elder from the tri-boundary of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province told Nordis in a jest during the 4th General Assembly of the Mankayan-Quirino-Tadian-Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) on November 30 in Mankayan, Benguet.

“Today is a Sunday and it is Bonifacio Day!” former Lamag Barangay Captain Felix Dengaley, one of the masters of ceremonies, declared as he led the gathering to remember Andres Bonofacio’s heroism in the Philippine Revolution.

As speakers reported, their situation speak of a people amid war.

War against poverty and want is evident in the report of farmers along the Abra River, which have been rendered unproductive by mine tailings that incessantly flow through the river system from Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s operations here.

Farmers in remote villages such as Barangay Lamag in Quirino, Ilocos Sur and Tubtuba in Tubo, Abra, could not tend to their farms, neither could they harvest their crops in times of military operations. This year alone, they witnessed two full-blown military campaigns which terrorized Pananuman and its surrounding communities in the Dilong Valley. One such bombing resulted from an encounter between elements of the 5th Infantry Brigade and members of New People’s Army in March, followed by another in October.

Workers are also experiencing the hunger, despite jobs that they hold on to. Lepanto workers now subjected to a reduced work-day scheme, scamper for more jobs elsewhere while they are on “enforced vacation from the mines.”

Urban poor leader Ignacio Pangket, chair of the Organisasyon ti Nakurapay nga Umili iti Syudad (Ornus) said city dwellers have long been deprived of their right to food and decent shelter, as well as decent jobs. Pangket was one of the presenters in a press conference here Thursday.

The Maquitacdg elder said, they could do nothing else but watch. He said it in jest but there is more to it than meets the eye. More than the war against poverty and hunger, his community has been victimized by the military’s anti-insurgency campaign .

During the first bombing, residents in the Dilong Valley were subjected to various types of human rights violations as documented by the human rights watchdog Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) in its annual report.

“The triboundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur isthe most militarized in the region,” the CHRA report claimed. It is the priority or “win” area as defined by the Operation Bantay Laya, the government anti-insurgency scheme.

The Cordillera has been identified as the base of the Ilocos-Cordillera Region of the communist New People’s Army, according to Col. Pompeo Limbo of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division in his report to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) at the Benguet provincial capitol Friday.

Pompeo said the rebels have targeted the boundary area because it would be easier for them to expand to other provinces while staying in one place.

Aside from atrocities in the Dilong Valley, CHRA also noted human rights abuses in Baay-Licuan, Abra; Natonin, Mountain Province; Tanglag and Lubuagan, Kalinga; and even in urban centers like Baguio City and Conner in Apayao.

“Where there are mining applications, expect human rights violations as a result of militarization,” noted Santos Mero, Deputy Secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Mero is also with Defend Patrimony, a national aggrupation of anti-mining advocates.

He said the Cordillera is the subject of several mining applications covering more than two-thirds of the region’s 1.8 million hectare land area.

Jude Baggo, CHRA secretary-general said the challenges for 2009 is greater with the State bent on achieving the goals of OBL II, Charter change and the presidential elections in 2010.

“We must gather our strength to end state terrorism and fascism and to hold the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government accountable for all human rights violations,” said Baggo.

CHRA noted four extra-judicial killings, one case of attempted rape, once case of enforced disappearance, three cases of bombings and strafings two cases of hamletting; one case of food restriction; and 19 counts of illegal searches among many other human rights violations in the Cordillera from January to November 20, 2008. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)


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