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CHR: End violence with development, not troops

The government should address the causes of violence in the countryside, instead of increasing the number of troops deployed in rural areas, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Saturday.

The government’s plan to intensify military presence, it said, may even escalate tension and fuel fear in these communities that have been beset with social problems for years.

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“We urge the government to pursue development solutions rather than military approach to truly address the long-standing problems that impact the basic rights and dignity of the people,” said lawyer Jacqueline de Guia, CHR spokesperson.

The CHR issued the statement two days after President Rodrigo Duterte issued Memorandum Order (MO) No. 32, increasing the number of soldiers and police in specific areas.

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‘Lawless groups’

The order cited recent “sporadic acts of violence” in Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the Bicol Region, said to have been committed by “lawless groups.”

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo cited the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental; the killings of former Mayor Ananias Rebato of San Jose de Buan, Samar, and a police official in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, and the ambush of a convoy carrying Food and Drug Administration Director General Nela Charade Puno in Camarines Sur.

MO 32 directs the defense and interior departments to increase Army and police personnel in these areas to “prevent such violence [from] spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”

But De Guia said the root causes of violence, such as land issues and the plight of farmers, needed to be addressed first. “We call on the government to address these problems instead of simply increasing the presence of security forces, which may escalate tension and fuel fear in the community,” she added.

Also on Saturday, a human rights group denounced the latest acts of “harassment” allegedly directed at workers of its local chapters in the Negros provinces.

Karapatan reported that two staff members of Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group (PDG), identifed as Felipe Levy Gelle Jr. and Enrita Caniendo, received death threats on Saturday.

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The two received sheets of paper with their pictures inside a coffin, with the words: “One by one you will have your time. You are next” in the Ilonggo language, Karapatan said.

The PDG staff members are colleagues of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr., who was shot dead by unidentified assailants on Nov. 6.

“The printed sheets of paper were thrown inside a house compound of one of the leaders of Asosasyon sang Mangunguma kag Mamumugon sa Sitio Lupni, one of the farmer’s associations the PDG assists, Karapatan said.

CPP-NPA as target

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), acknowledged that they were the target of the increased deployment of soldiers and policemen.

But the CPP said the strategy was “counterproductive and self-defeating” for the military and police and would only rouse people to join the NPA.

Jose Maria Sison, the self-exiled CPP founder, blasted the President and officials of the state security forces who, he said, were ignorant of the armed struggle being waged by the communist insurgents.

“They think that the NPA is already finished when it evades the enemy offensives with superior strength,” Sison said. “They forget that the NPA can launch tactical counteroffensives after evasive actions.”

The CPP noted that since early this year, the President had already deployed 10 more battalions of soldiers across the country, four of which were in Mindanao.

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TAGS: CHR, Commission on Human Rights, communist rebels, CPP, Jacqueline de Guia, Joma Sison, Jose Maria Sison, military presence, NPA
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