Letter on Lumad Human Rights Violations in Philippines

Letter on Lumad Human Rights Violations in Philippines

From the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines

Senator Franken
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Franken,   
We are outraged at the recent killings, massive forced dislocations, harassment, threats, occupation and closing of schools in Lumad tribal communities in Mindanao over the past month at the hands of the Philippine Military and paramilitary forces under their control. 

The military units involved in these abuses are primarily those recent transfers of military officers to Mindanao with a track record of violence and “unexplained” killings in their areas of operation, done under the guise of counterinsurgency operations.  These atrocities fit the criteria for war crimes.  The Nuremberg Tribunal established several precedents for a military and private actors working with the “encouragement” of the military. In these cases,  there appear to be two perpetrators: (1) the private actors who operate under color of authority of the State (the paramilitary group) and the (2) AFP that deputized the paramilitary to act as its agent or accomplice. 

Recent events targeting the Lumad tribal communities in the town of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Mindanao demonstrate the deadly impact of these operations. On September 1, 2015, a school principal at an award-winning school was tortured and killed by government-backed indigenous paramilitary forces known as Magahat/Bagani, armed and commanded by the 36th Battalion of the Philippine Army.  Two others were strafed and murdered before hundreds of witnesses of Han-ayan, Lianga town, Surigao del Sur province.  Two days prior to this incident, the paramilitary group burned down the school cooperative and threatened to massacre the entire community if they did not leave.  Over 3,000 individuals evacuated to nearby municipalities.  This is only one of the atrocities that have been occurring in Lumad communities during the past several months.

Reports from various faith-based and human rights groups document increasing human rights abuses occurring among Manobo people including the killing of three minors allegedly by elements of a Special Forces Batallion, the on-going mass evacuations of Manobo people in Davao City due to intense military operations and threats from the paramilitary group ALAMARA, and forced closings of schools and occupied by the military.  Recently, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao reported the strafing of school grounds by elements of the 26th IB troops. In Sarangani province, administrators and faculty of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS), which provides education to indigenous Blaan children, had false criminal charges of serious illegal detention of evacuees and inciting to sedition filed against them. Various military officials have made pronouncements attributing the killings to “tribal conflict”.  When indigenous people opposed large mining operations on their lands, the conflicts with the security forces paid for by the mining companies have resulted in deaths and loss of ancestral lands.

Calls for an end to the killings and investigation and prosecution of those military forces involved have recently come from The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, the Benedictine Nuns of St. Scholastica College, Philippine legislators, The National Council of Churches of the Philippines, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao, and international human rights organizations.  The Provincial Governor Johnny Pimental of Surigao del Sur has called for the disbandment of paramilitary forces days after the killings.  The recently appointed Chair of the Philippine Human Rights Commission has finally sent an investigation team to Mindanao.  In a pastoral letter of July 25, 2015 the United Church of Christ Philippines called on all churches to “denounce the ongoing militarization and human rights violations in indigenous peoples communities and to strengthen inter-faith and tribal peoples efforts to build unity, justice, and peace”.

This past July, the Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, published a statement that summarized his findings on his visit to the Philippines, July 21-31, 2015, with these words:

It was striking to me that indigenous peoples have been particularly vulnerable to conflict-induced displacement in many regions, particularly in Mindanao…Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever.”

On June 3, 2015, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines published a report, “The Path to Promotion in the Armed Forces Philippines: Vilification Campaigns, Human Rights Abuses, and Impunity” wherein increases in human rights violations were predicted as a result of promoting AFP officers who commanded forces charged with human rights violations.  The recent abuses committed in Mindanao and other parts of the country  by military and paramilitary forces under their command reflect the behavior of impunity of their recently-promoted commanders.

We support the call from Philippine faith based communities and human rights groups for justice for the victims of the military operations of September 1, 2015, the dismantling of paramilitary groups involved in the government’s counter-insurgency programs, independent investigations into the killings without the presence of the military, and the protection of the rights of indigenous people over their ancestral lands.

And we demand  (a) No military aid to the Philippine Army, (b)  Conditions on all aid that ensure war crimes are not perpetuated, (c) Support by the US government to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights by providing resources, including assistance for housing current refugees, and (d) A determination by the U.S.  State Department as to whether or not military personnel trained under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) it administers have either themselves or forces under their command been accused of human rights violations.

Sincerely yours,

Ecumenical Advocacy Network Steering Committee

Paul Bloom, Ph.D, Minnesota
Brian Campbell, Esq, Washington, D.C.
Margaret Dominado, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Dr. Mary Susan Gast, Steering Committee Chair, National Ecumenical Inter-Faith Forum for Filipino Concerns, Northern California Chapter
Gary King, Ph.D, Fridley, Minnesota
Meg Layese, Philippine Study Group of Minnesota
Timothy McGloin, Ph.D, North Carolina
Linda McGloin, North Carolina, Rev. Marma Urbano, Stockton, CA

Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of LawProfessor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Derek N. Duncan, M.Div.  Associate for Global Advocacy and Education, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Thomas Pogge, Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University
Scott Wright Director Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach 415 Michigan Avenue NE, Women Against Military
Dr. Kathryn Poethig,Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) , Watsonville, California 
Rev. Michael Yoshii, Chair, Advocacy and Justice Committee, California-Nevada Conference UMC, Alameda, California
Galatea King Chair, Church and Society Committee Buena Vista United Methodist Church Alameda, California
Rev. Jeanelle Ablola Co-Chair, Philippine Solidarity Task Force California-Nevada Conference, United Methodist Church Alameda, California
Kira Rabut-Azzam Co-Chair, Philippine Solidarity Task Force California-Nevada Conference, United Methodist Church San Pablo, California
Nicole Salde Kalipunan ng Kristyanong Kabataan, Northern California Chapter San Pablo, California
Ms. Lorena Duhaylungsod Kalipunan ng Kristyanong Kabataan, Northern California Chapter Oakland, California
Megumi Yoshida Pine United Methodist Church San Francisco, California
Bishop Eliezer Pascua Administrative Pastor, Philippine American Ecumenical Church Ecumenical Church UCC Chicago, Illinois
Bishop Valentin Loreio, Jr. Philippine Independent Church Chicago, Illinois
The Rev. Primitivo C. Racimo Priest-in-Charge St. Margaret of Scotland Episcopal Church Chicago, Illinois
Nerissa N. Allegretti Executive Director Fellowship for Filipino Migrants-FFM Lincolnwood, Illinois
Rev. Dennis Duhaylungsod Steadfast Covenant Community Church Hayward, California
Hannah Duhaylungsod Lake Park United Methodist Church Oakland, California
Rev. Dr. Felicisimo Cao Wayside United Methodist Church Vallejo, California
Ms. Jean Reynolds California-Nevada Methodist Federation for Social Action Richmond, California
Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy, and Society University of Minnesota Law School 344 Walter F. Mondale Hall 229-19th Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55455
Rev. Lindsey Kerr Pastor, United Methodist Church Santa Rosa, California
Rev. Dr. Juancho Campanano Wesley United Methodist Church 21 E Franklin Ave, Naperville, Illinois
Rev. Digna Campanano Chaplain, Sherman-Advocate Hospital 1425 N Randall Rd, Elgin, Illinois
Rev. Leonard Oaks Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church 777 Southgate Ave, Daly City, CA
Jerry Bolick Buddhist Church of San Francisco 1881 Pine St, San Francisco, California
Rev. Abel and Phoebe Amago 1070 Durham Dr., Wheaton, Illinois
Rev. Samuel Dado 6111 Windows Montrose Ave, Chicago, Illinois
Rev. Leo Constantino 2311 S. Priere Ave. Chicago, Illlinois
Julie Harris Church and Society Committee Buena Vista UMC Alameda, California