Court asked to protect indigenous people

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The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday was asked by incumbent and former lawmakers from the so-called Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives to protect indigenous people or lumad from the alleged abuses of the military.

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In particular, the high court was asked to issue the writs of Amparo and Habeas Data as legal remedy for persons whose rights to life, liberty, security, and privacy were violated.

The petitioners are: Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Children’s Rehabilitation Center executive director Jacqueline Ruiz, Rural Missionaries Coordinator Sr. Mary Francis Añover, Rev. Irma Balaba of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and Ofelia Beltran-Balleta, representing the family of former Anakpawis Rep. Beltran who passed away in 2008.

Named respondents to the case are President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin.

The petitioners argued that there are threats to their “life, liberty and security” due to the “existence of a ‘hit list’ that contains “names and pictures of seventy activists in Mindanao and national leaders of progressive organizations.”

“The said hit list was appended to a criminal complaint instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in collusion with the Philippine National Police, on charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and violations of the Republic Act 9298 or the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act of 2003 and RA 10364 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012,” the petition reads.

They alleged that the said “hit list” was part of government’s counter-insurgency program dubbed “Oplan: Bayanihan.”

The respondents also accuse the military of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and human trafficking committed against the lumad communities in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

The lumad were willing to flee their communities due to the “militarization of their lands and territories.”

“The civil society organizations to which the Petitioners belong have been tagged as ‘communist front organizations’ while their leaders and members have been targets of attack under the government’s counterinsurgency programs. Many of them have experienced various forms of harassment by state forces. Some were killed or abducted,” the petitioners said.

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