CHR says ‘lumad’ situation getting ‘grave,’ sets public inquiry
The situation of the “lumad” in Mindanao is getting “grave” and it needs government attention, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“The [lumad] situation is getting grave; it needs comprehensive government response. The situation of our refugees in Tandag, Haran, Malaybalay and elsewhere needs to be attended to,” CHR chair Chito Gascon told reporters as he turned emotional on Friday afternoon.
“There have been horrendous atrocities and crimes perpetrated by persons who should be identified and brought to justice,” he said.
The CHR met with the indigenous peoples in a dialogue on Friday afternoon at their office in Quezon City.
The lumad leaders have accused the military and its paramilitary forces of killings and harassments in their communities. They have also called for the disbanding, disarming and pullout of these groups which have driven the lumad to mass evacuation.
Thousands of lumad have been displaced in parts of Mindanao because of alleged militarization and the ongoing conflict of the New People’s Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Because of the worsening situation, the CHR will conduct a public inquiry in Davao next week.
“We will undertake a public inquiry in Davao. Our approach will not focus on isolated cases like in Haran or in Lianga. Our approach is to understand the difficult situation and the root causes and make recommendations to address the situation of the lumads,” Gascon said.
The hearing will be led by two commissioners on Sept. 23 and 24.
Gascon said orders had been sent to government and private individuals for the inquiry. The military will also be present.
While the fact-finding mission of the regional CHR office was still ongoing, Gascon said it was apparent that the recent killings in Surigao del Sur were extrajudicial.
“It is clear to us, from the photos alone, that these were extrajudicial killings. And we condemn it,” he said.
He made it clear that they were not prejudging the role of the security forces but reminded them that there was a law on humanitarian obligations.
“The call isn’t really to pull out the military. It’s that they (should) comply with laws and standards and not militarize the communities as presumed by the rebels,” Gascon said.
He also called on the disarming of paramilitary groups in the affected communities.
“There is no justification for auxiliary forces. They are not properly trained and oriented to do the work of the military. We call on the government to seriously review this longstanding policy of augmentation and withdraw support from paramilitary groups involved in these atrocities,” he said. Frances Mangosing/RC
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