SEN. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday called on her colleagues to investigate the continued displacement of some 700 indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao be-cause of military and paramilitary activities.
Santiago said she will file a resolution based on the recommendations of Dr. Chaloka Beyani, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, who visited the country from July 21 to 31.
“We cannot ignore the plight of indigenous peoples (IPs) who are the ultimate victims of skirmishes between the military and rebels. What is more alarming is that now we are being told that the military or their operatives are the ones terrorizing these communities,” she said.
Santiago particularly pointed to the IP community seeking shelter at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) compound in Haran, Davao City.
Some government agencies however insist that the evacuees have been deceived by militant groups who are now holding them at the church compound against their will. There have even been controversial attempts to “rescue” the displaced IPs.
Santiago issued the statement hours after Beyani slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines for distorting his pronouncements to make it appear that he believed the IPs at UCCP Haran have been displaced by human trafficking and not by militarization.
“The military is in bad faith if indeed it is twisting the report of the UN special rapporteur to spread false information about the situation in Davao City,” the senator said.
Santiago said the Senate probe must determine whether the armed groups who forced the IPs out of their homes are government troops, communist rebels, or members of paramilitary organizations.
“The Senate must investigate alle¬-gations that the military perpetuates the operations of paramilitary groups, whose activities displace and destroy communities not only in Mindanao, but also in other parts of the country,” she said.