Army to probe rights abuses in Vizcaya

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BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: In response to reported human rights abuses committed by its troops in far flung mountain mining villages in the province, the Philippine Army (PA) is sending an investigating team stating these acts cannot be “condoned.”

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”Those who will be found guilty of human rights violations against villagers who reportedly opposed to an exploration activities will be dealt with accordingly,” said the Army’s Seventh Infantry Division (7ID) in a statement.

Anti-mining villagers have been blocking roads in the villages of Pacquet in Kasibu and Binuangan in Dupax del Norte town in an effort to cut off a supply route and cripple Royalco’s exploration activities.

Royalco Philippines Inc., an Australian mining firm, is presently conducting a national government-sanctioned copper and gold exploration activities in the villages of Pao and Kakidugen in the mineral-rich town of Kasibu.

Col. Rodney Intal, chief of Tarlac-based 7ID civil-military operations battalion, said their investigating team is now ready to find out these reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by their troops in the area.

”We do not condone such acts,” he said. Intal said the investigation on their troops will be “impartial” and that “we will impose an immediate and appropriate sanctions against those found guilty of committing such acts.”

“The conduct of our investigation will be impartial as we are committed to follow the rule of law and rules of engagement . . . We are committed to respect and uphold the rights of any individual,” said the Army in a statement.

House of Representative Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla has aired alleged reports of harassments committed by the Army in the indigenous peoples-dominated mountain villages.

In a privilege speech on August 27, Padilla cited complaints from Catholic Church-backed anti-mining groups of “militarization” of mining areas, many villagers of which were reportedly harassed by rebel-posing military men for resisting the exploration activities of Royalco.

Villagers manning barricades claim they were interrogated by a group of 40 heavily armed military men in the village of Yabbi, Kasibu.

They said these military men also looted houses of some residents in the area of their meager belongings like chicken, rice and fish from a fishpond.

Presenting to the media reports from anti-mining groups, Padilla said two truckloads of soldiers also entered the village of Pacquet on August 24 sending residents in fear.

Padilla said hat should there be a finding of illegal deployment of soldiers in the area, those responsible will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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