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Volume III,  Number 43              November 30 - December 6, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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Bulatlat.com Special Report ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Mindanao: Laboratory for State Terror

DAVAO CITY -- As human-rights violations go, Mindanao could very well be the laboratory of the state –laboratory of terror, that is. It is where the most horrendous atrocities are committed. In the last few years alone, the public was shocked by a series of human rights violations here that remain unresolved until today.


(Left) Evacuees: victims of state terrorism. (Right) Soldiers bomb suspected Muslim rebel stronghold  

File photos by Carlos H. Conde

There was the murder of journalist-human rights advocate Benjaline "Beng" Hernandez and her companions by elements of the military in Arakan, North Cotabato. There was the infamous Mawab Four Massacre, in which a New People' s Army (NPA) guerrilla and two civilian workers of a mining company were arrested by the military in Compostela Valley province and ended up tortured and dead, their bodies found by the roadside in a town called Mawab.

There were the thousands who were forced out of their homes during operations by the military against the NPA, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf operations that government had said were in defense of the nation but, in reality, had had the effect of violating the rights of thousands of Filipinos. In the all-out-wars against the MILF launched in 2001 and in 2002 alone, hundreds of thousands of Moros were displaced and scores others were killed.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), of the almost half a million (411,004) displaced by military operations this year alone, more than 64,000 are still displaced. Maguindanao, which bore the brunt of these operations, still has more than 45,000 refugees out there, out of a total of 153,531.

In this city and elsewhere, there's the rampage of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which the administration of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has not only failed to stop but has actually been supporting publicly. Since the mid-1990s, more than a hundred have died in the hands of these killers. Those targeted are usually petty criminals (such as pickpockets and snatchers) and crime suspects.

In many of his public utterances, Duterte had practically endorsed the methods of the death squad, which are consistent with his avowed ways to get rid of crime, i.e. to use an iron-first policy. A few weeks ago, the mayor even publicly declared that he favors a dictatorship to solve the ills of Philippine society.

Moreover, after the bombings here in March and April this year, Duterte's men, aided by the military's Task Force Davao, held Moro men in the dead of night and marked houses with the X sign, as if they were plagued with some illness that must be avoided. Many of these dozen or so men are still reportedly unaccounted for, their families continually searching for them in the jailhouses around the city and the region, hoping that they are still alive.

More recenty, the military has been conducting increasing surveillance operations against leaders of militant groups, such as Anakbayan, Bayan, Bayan Muna and Karapatan. A couple of these leaders have complained that men in Tamaraw jeeps would follow them wherever they went. A few weeks ago, the military Task Force Davao revealed that it was beginning to videotape the activities of human-rights and nationalist groups.

The impunity with which these human-rights violations are committed has created what could very well be its intended effect: more human-rights violations.

  • On Sept. 19, four people - Lito Doydoy, 24 ; Marjorie Reynoso, 18; Jonathan Benaro, 16; and Ramon Regase, 18 - were abducted by men believed to be from the military in Maco town, Compostela Valley. A few days later, the bodies of the four were found in a shallow grave inside a banana plantation in the town. There is evidence that Marjorie, who was the leader of the Sangguniang Kabataan in her village, was repeatedly raped. Except for Regase, who was the driver of the motorcycle, all three were active with the Anak ng Bayan partylist group and Anakbayan, a militant youth group. The NPA later said that the perpetrators were members of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

  • One day also in September, the dreaded military-created vigilante group, the Alamara, killed Ruben Inayag, a leader of a progressive organization in San Fernando, Bukidnon. Inayag was killed because he resisted pressures to join the group.

  • After Inayag's death, the Alamara started harassing Italian priest Fausto Tentorio of Arakan, North Cotabato. At one point, the vigilante group threatened to kill him. Specifically, one of the groups leaders reportedly threatened to decapitate the priest and eat his ears. One night in September, the Alamara went to a house looking for the priest and they reportedly boasted that they were hired by a certain Lito Gawilan, who is allegedly an operative of the 73rd Infantry Batallion, to eliminate those opposed to a plantation project in the area.

  • In October, three farmers from Monkayo town, Compostela ValleyPedro Pesores, 41; Bob Asdang, 45; and Armando Sabandal, 32 - were massacred by men in bonnet who were said to be members of the Barangay Intelligence Unit of the 36th Infantry Batallion. A witness was reportedly tortured by the perpetrators.

  • On Oct. 4, three members of Anakbayan - Rendon Amal, 21; Ramonito Delante, 23; and Elias Telo, 23 - were abducted in Davao City in front of the Victoria Plaza mall. According to the human-rights group Karapatan, the suspected abductors were from the Heinous Crime and Investigation Section of the Philippine National Police in the city. The three are still missing. Their relatives had gone to police stations, morgues and hospitals in the city looking for them.

These are just some of the more recent incidents of serious human-rights violations. And human-rights and militant groups are concerned that this impunity would go on. Bulatlat.com

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