‘Military rule in disaster-affected communities unwelcome’, survivors group say
Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent defense of the continuing deployment of troops in various rural areas, survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) deplored the pronouncement for justifying the continuing militarization that has worsened the ordeal of their communities over the past three years.
“President Duterte, your military troops are illegally occupying our villages, harassing and vilifying our fellow survivors, and disrupting our still struggling livelihoods. These fascist attacks are no different from the previous Aquino administration’s systematic militarization of our communities and are most certainly unwelcome in our villages,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of People Surge.
People Surge, the largest alliance of survivors of Yolanda and other subsequent typhoon disasters in the Eastern Visayas region, reported that the 87th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) has presently encamped in both village facilities and civilian homes across nine barangays in Calbiga municipality in Samar. They also cited the 78th IBPA’s hamleting of survivor communities in the town of Burauen, Leyte, including villages of indigenous Mamanwa.
“The military has imposed a virtual Martial Law over our communities ever since we came together to demand justice over the criminal neglect we continue to suffer since 2013. Duterte is saying that these operations are for ‘peace and order’, but what we are getting is the brutal suppression of survivors’ communities protesting the pervading landlessness, poverty, and other agricultural crises in the countryside,” Bautista said.
Bautista recalled how the first year after the landfall of Yolanda was marred with the killings of peasant leader Rodolfo Basada and youth organizer Jefferson Custodio, both their fellow survivors of Yolanda, at the hands of suspected military operatives who were harassing them prior to their deaths.
The survivors group hit the continuing implementation of the Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program implemented during the Aquino administration, saying its militarization strategy has targeted their organized communities upon the suspicion that these are base areas of the communist rebels under the New People’s Army.
“The perpetrators of Basada and Custodio’s killings are still out there and militarization is still rampant in our communities. If Duterte asserts that it is the Republic of the Philippines who decides where to place its troops, then, by all means, he should kick them out of our besieged communities. There is no justice and definitely no peace if our communities are still subjected to intensified militarization instead of our longstanding demands for genuine rehabilitation,” ended Bautista.
More than a hundred survivors from People Surge arrived yesterday in Metro Manila as the first wave of the Lakbayan laban sa Kagutuman at Militarisasyon (Caravan against Hunger and Militarization).
Bearing the theme ‘Tindog Visayas’ (Rise Up Visayas), the Visayas-wide protest caravan aims to raise the persisting crises of hunger, landlessness, and militarization before Malacanang Palace and other national offices of various government agencies. Tindog Visayas will culminate in the big rallies commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10.#
DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA
Chairperson, People Surge