Philippine Army harasses, belittles Uma folks, rights group demanding pull out of army encamped in civilian homes and public facilities

    Representative of Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga and JPAK presenting the peoples' declaration for military pull-out before the staff of Kalinga Vice Governor

    TABUK, Kalinga – The officers of the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army harassed, intimidated and belittled the representatives of Western Uma, Lubuagan and members of the Justice and Peace Advocates of Kalinga (JPAK) at their headquarters in Kapanikian, Camalog, Pinukpuk on January 10.

    JPAK representative presenting the peoples’ declaration before the staff of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples

    JPAK and ten representatives of Western Uma trooped to the headquarters of 50th IBPA to submit the peoples declaration demanding pull out of army troopers under the battalion specifically in Western Uma. Previously, the community also sent a petition demanding the same cause but nothing happened. For one year and two months, the soldiers are encamped in civilian homes and public facilities in Ag-agama, Western Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga despite the villagers’ clamor for pull-out.

    The community petition and the peoples’ declaration were formulated because of numerous human rights violations committed by the soldiers including threat, harassment, intimidation, endangering civilian population, political persecution against community leaders, and disrespect on women.

    Headquarters of the 50th IBPA

    Instead of reading the demands of the people, two officers at the military camp started yelling at the Uma folks, JPAK, and including a London based film maker who was just documenting the process. The two officers kept on yelling at the film maker demanding her to delete the video clip and that they will sue her for breach of security. The rights group and the Uma folks tried to assert that they just want the battalion to heed their demand for military pull-out. However, the officers kept on dismissing the issue and accusing them as supporters of the New Peoples Army.

    After intimidating the rights group and the people of Western Uma, the battalion officers did not receive the peoples’ declaration.

    Gaining the courage to enter the military camp.

    One of the community representatives whose son is a victim of grave threat and intimidation by the soldiers encamped in their village said he felt belittled. “No umay da iti ili mi ket marespeto da met. Apay nga no adda ti reklamo nga idatag kaniada ket kasla laeng nga aso ti panagtrato da,” (Whenever they come to our village, we still respect them. Why do they have to treat us like dogs when we are only presenting our complaints?) he said.

    He lamented that the 50th IBPA is belittling them as human beings and as a people. He however has a firm resolve to continue fighting for their rights. He said that despite the harassment, and the disrespect, they will stand their ground. They will continue to call for the pull-out in any other avenues.

    A soldier on post skims the peoples’ declaration. He hesitantly called for the officers to decide if the paper will be received or not.

    The group had their petition received at the governor’s office, vice governor’s office, and at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). They will also send it to as many government offices, Church groups, and civil society organizations. # JPAK Release

    Uma folks and JPAK at the Vice Governor’s office

     Note: Names of the people from Western Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga, the film maker, and representatives of JPAK will not be disclosed to avoid further harassment.

    Click here to download full statement.