SC urged to protect lumad
BAYAN Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares urged the Supreme Court to rule favorably on the pending pleas for writs of amparo and habeas data to stop the killings of tribal leaders and the alleged harassment by the military against the indigenous people in Mindanao, called lumad.
The congressman made the appeal as fresh complaints of harassment were raised by educators in Davao Oriental who claimed the military blockaded the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy in Banganga town.
“We have already filed writs of amparo and habeas data before the Supreme Court,” said Colmenares, who filed his certificate of candidacy for senator on Monday accompanied by his niece, popular actress Angel Locsin [real name: Angelica Colmenares].
Locsin, at the same time, urged the military to help stop the escalating violence in lumad communities by pulling back from the lumad’s ancestral lands.
“I am calling for the military pullout from lumad ancestral lands,” said Locsin, who had been supporting the operation of lumad schools in Mindanao.
“As of now, there are still lumad who cannot even return to their homes,” said the actress, who had also visited the very school that the military claimed to be infiltrated by communist insurgents. “Over 3,000 evacuees are still in various evacuation centers. We should help them return to their homes.”
The actress said the schools she visited have been very effective in educating tribal children and urged the military to respect the need to exclude schools from security operations.
“I think there should be no paramilitary forces in schools which should be considered sanctuaries of education. If you had children, would you want armed people in your children’s school. Of course, you will want those schools to be always peaceful,” Locsin said.
But in Banganga, Davao Oriental, Milagros Maglunsod-Tan accused the military on Monday of blockading the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy which was supposed to be inaugurated on Monday.
Tan claimed that soldiers of the 67th Infantry Battalion, led by a certain Lt. Miguel Porras, prevented guests from arriving or leaving the school premises.
“They were not allowing anyone in or out of the area for a week until they could supposedly clear it of rebels,” Tan said. “What’s happening now is there was this collapse of civilian supremacy over the military.”
Military-backed “datus” and their armed militiamen have been trying to close down all lumad schools built for them by international and local non-government organizations on the pretext that they were being used by the communist New People’s Army to propagate communism.
But Colmenares said there was no truth to the claim of the military and announced he and his group “will file administrative civil and criminal charges, especially against professional false roving witnesses, coddled by the military and the military and police involved in the harassment cases.”
Colmenares said their group have petitioned before the high court to issue a protection order and force the military to reveal any information that has led them to decide that schools should become part of security operations.
The congressman said 70 people who are trying to help the lumad restore normalcy in their lives have been included in a list for still undetermined reasons and they suspect that it was a “hit list.”
The supposed “hit list”, according to the human rights organization Karapatan, is appended to the criminal complaint for kidnapping, serious illegal detention and trafficking filed against supporters of some 700 lumad who had sought refuge at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran Mission House in Davao City.
Colmenares said their petition names President Benigno Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Philippine National Police chief Ricardo Marquez, Army chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, and other military and police officers.