DAVAO CITY: Government troops and its militia units have been accused of human rights violations in Davao City in southern Philippines, and human rights organizations have called on the local government to immediately act on the accusations against the army.
Hanimay Suazo, a spokesperson for the human rights group Karapatan, said civilians and tribesmen have complained about the rampant abuses allegedly committed by army soldiers in Paquibato District.
“In Paquibato, leaders of progressive organizations are either charged with trumped-up cases, or unlawfully questioned under the false accusation that they are members of the NPA,” she said, referring to the communist rebel group New People’s Army, which has been fighting for a separate state for many decades now.
Suazo said she and representatives of other human rights organizations – Karadyawan and Paquibato District Peasant Association – met on Tuesday with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City and discussed the “worsening” situation in the area, where troops have turned villages into virtual garrisons.
Suazo said rampant human rights violations by soldiers were also reported in the towns of Maco and Mabini in Compostela Valley province and in Davao del Norte’s Kapalong town.
“Harassment, vilification, encampments in civilian structures, and signature campaigns wherein people are deceived into signing bogus documents that claim they are surrenderees from the New People’s Army and these are just a few of the human rights violations committed by military forces stationed in the areas,” Suazo said.
She said they have documented at least five cases of human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings in Kapalong alone since early this year.
“There is no other alternative but to pull-out the state’s armed forces from the communities, and a relentless investigation, till those guilty are put behind bars,” Suazo added.
Women’s group Gabriela also accused the military of violating the rights of civilians also in Maco and Mabini towns in Compostela Valley. Citing the report from a humanitarian peace mission that investigated military encampment and human rights abuses in the communities there, Mary Ann Sapar, Gabriela spokeswoman, said the setting up of camps in civilian areas are illegal “more so, if the military have been intruding the houses of the residents.”
She said that this situation puts women and children to be more vulnerable to abuse and human rights violations including sexual assaults and violence. She cited the case of “Celsa,” a mother who was allegedly raped by a soldier in November last year.
“Military camps in civilian communities and other public structures like schools and village halls must be dismantled. These are illegal and therefore enforcement of the law must be done by police and local government units,” she said.
There was no immediate statement either from the Eastern Mindanao Command and 10th Infantry Division about the accusations, but the military has previously tagged the Karapatan as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines.