Indigenous peoples and residents of several villages in Nueva Vizcaya decried the presence of military elements in their communities, citing violations to the human rights of residents and the state forces’ alleged facilitation and protection of mining operations in the province.
According to Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) spokesperson Piya Macliing Malayao, joint operations of police and military have violated the rights of residents in several villages in Nueva Vizcaya. The villages in Nueva Vizcaya, composed mostly of members of Igorot tribes, have been resisting the entry of Royalco Philippines Inc, an Australian-owned mining company since 2007.
“Once again, the military are pinning the people’s resistance to the plunder of the nation’s wealth to plots made by rebels, undermining the strength of civilians to defend their rights. However, what is being made clear by the acts made by the military and police in Nueva Vizcaya is that the government forces are the private security of mining corporations and the resisting people are their foes,” Malayao said.
Reports received by KAMP from local organization Alliance of Upland Barangays for Sustainable Development (AUBD) said that residents in Binuangan village saw around 40 armed men coming from nearby Belance village at around four the morning last August 19, and went in the direction of Yabbi where explorations of Royalco are taking place. Ten other armed men went directly at the barricade in Binuangan, introducing themselves as members of the New People’s Army. But the locals recognized the armed men as members of the Philippine Army and the Cafgu (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit.) The armed men interrogated the people manning the barricade, and stayed overnight, despite the local’s appeals for the armed men to leave, insisting that guns and ammunition are not allowed in the barricade site.
“The people of Nueva Vizcaya have maintained barricade for years to prevent mining operations in their lands, and this resistance was met by several acts of violence from deployed police and military elements in the area throughout the years. This renewed military deployment in the barricade sites are sowing fear, and are causing rights violations among the residents,” Malayao said.
KAMP said that a string of human rights violations were committed by the military to locals in Nueva Vizcaya. Some of the most recent was the incident in March 29, 2013 in Brgy. Ganao, Dupax Del Sur when several drunken members of the 3rd IB of the Philippine Army allegedly intruded the house of a resident where they assaulted the male resident and sexually harassed the wife.
Formerly, KAMP and AUBD condemned the filing of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to ten leaders of the barricades, describing the TRO as a ‘SLAPP suit.’ A SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation, is a lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by inconveniencing them of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. “The TRO was served not only by the sheriff but with members of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the police. It was a show of force, with the intention to scare and intimidate. It also showed what the people of Nueva Vizcaya are contending with—the full force of the mining company, the government, and their mercenary police and military,” Malayao recounted.
The military is also said to encamp in civilian facilities. Locals reported that the military used the rural health clinic in Kinabuan, Dupax Del Sur last March 2013 as barracks. By May, the military set up camp in the village hall in Mataddi, Quirino, while members of the 3rd IB are encamped near the public school of Ganao, Dupax Del Sur. In Belance, Dupax Del Norte, the military and CAFGU barracks is located at the center of the village where most of the houses are found.
“Military encampment in public spaces and near civilian homes is a violation of local and international humanitarian laws. It endangers the people and is causing fear among the residents,” Malayao said.
“It has been made clear in these acts of the military and police where exactly their loyalty rests. And clearly, that is to serve and protect the mining company. We condemn these acts of the government armed forces. We want Royalco and government troops out of Vizcaya,” Malayao declared.
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