Philippines: 45 Higaonon families leave homes due to militarization

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    Forty-five (45) Higaonon families composed of 217 individuals decided to leave their homes in Sitio Camansi, Brgy. Banglay in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental due to heavy military presence on June 5, 2016.

    At around 3PM of that day, they started to walk to Sitio Kawali of Barangay Kibanban, Balingasag. Some distance away from their homes, they heard gunfire but did not turn to see if they were the targets or if there was an armed encounter in their community. They arrived in Sitio Kawali at around 6 in the evening, tired and hungry.

    That morning, 13 fully armed personnel of the 58th Infantry Batallion arrived in their community. Around lunchtime, they called for a meeting informing the community that they will go around their houses to ask each family what their problems are. They will, according to them, relay the problems to the incoming president. The residents suggested doing the consultation right then and there so they could present their problems as a community. But the military did not want to conduct the consultation during the meeting, insisting that they would go house-to-house and that they would stay there for two weeks.

    The community raised their concern that they would be put in danger should their ‘enemies’ attack them. They would also fear going to their farms, which are some distance from their homes, as they might either be caught in a crossfire or be accused of being a member of the rebel group. They have already heard of civilians being accused in nearby communities, detained and tortured by the military.

    The residents also pointed out that last year, after they evacuated several times because of military operations, they already reached an agreement with Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, stipulating that the military should camp 500-1000 meters away from their community and not within their center. They also said that the military did not have to conduct a census as the residents there were registered voters and this is done by a different government agency. Despite the refusal of the people, the military went house to house – they had already gone to at least four houses.

    The residents decided to leave their community to seek safety. Two dump trucks from the provincial government unit arrived in Sitio Kawali at around 11 in the evening to bring them to the Gym of the poblacion of the Municipality of Lagonglong. They were able to eat only in the wee hours of the morning.

    The evacuees are determined to stay in their temporary sanctuary until the military has left their community. They are dismayed that the military, even after their rounds of dialogues the previous year, are endangering them again, driving them out of their domains and far from their livelihood. They would prefer to endure the hardships of an evacuee rather than face the risks posed by the military presence in their community. Moreover, their evacuation is their statement of anger that their decisions are not respected in their own ancestral lands.

    EXPRESS YOUR CONCERN TO THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT
    by writing to:

    H.E. Benigno S. Aquino III
    President of the Republic of the Philippines
    Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
    E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

    Hon. Alfredo Benjamin Sabater Caguioa
    Secretary, Department of Justice
    Email: info@doj.gov.ph; communications@doj.gov.ph

    Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
    Secretary, Department of National Defense
    Voice:+63(2) 911-6193, Fax:+63(2) 911-6213

    Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon

    Chairperson, Commission On Human Rights
    Telefax: 929-0102, 928-5655, 926-6188

    Atty. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo
    Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
    Tel: 373-97-87
    Email: chairpersonsoffice@gmail.com

    Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III
    Chair, Justice and Human Rights Committee
    Philippine Senate
    Trunk Lines: (632) 552-6601 to 70 loc. 5548
    Direct Lines: (632) 822-9758
    Fax No.: (632) 822-9759
    Email: kokopimenteloffice@yahoo.com

    Rep. Guillermo Romarate Jr.
    Chair, Human Rights Committee
    House of Representatives
    Tel: (632) 931-5001; local 7051, 9518974

    Hon. Yevgeny Vincente B. Emano
    Governor, Province of Misamis Oriental
    Tel.: (08822) 745974/745636/714901

    Hon. Manuel S. Pamisa Jr
    Mayor, Municipality of Lagonglong
    Tel.: (08822) 720-801

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