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Duterte urged: Remove troops from Mindanao indigenous communities

/ 02:47 PM May 13, 2016
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Presidential frontrunner and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte attends a press conference after he cast his vote in Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao on May 9, 2016. AFP FILE PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

Human rights group Karapatan on Friday called on presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to include on his list of priorities the immediate pullout of military troops in indigenous communities in Mindanao.

To date, Karapatan said operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have resulted in the death of 318 people and the forcible evacuation of thousands of indigenous people.

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“There are still more than 2,700 evacuees at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur and at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City. The [pullout] of military troops in their communities and the disbandment of paramilitary groups can enable them to go home,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

The group also said the Duterte administration should  release all political prisoners and resume the long-stalled peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

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“We challenge the Duterte presidency to build on the people’s votes that was mostly repudiation of everything that is the ‘tuwid na daan (straight path).’ He can start by junking Oplan Bayanihan and similar counterinsurgency programs and take the road to genuine peace by addressing the roots of unpeace and the ongoing civil war through the negotiating table,” Palabay said.

While the government denies the existence of political prisoners, Palabay said that as of March 2016, there are 543 political prisoners detained on false criminal charges. Of the 543, 18 are NDFP peace consultants, whose protection under the GPH-NDFP agreement on safety and immunity guarantees has been violated.

There are also 88 ailing and 48 elderly among the political prisoners, mostly poor peasants fighting for their land rights. RAM/rga

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TAGS: AFP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Government of the Republic of the Philippines, GPH, Human rights, Karapatan, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, NDFP, political prisoners, presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte
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