Armed forces’ petty tactics will not drive fact-finding out of Southern Mindanao

smr welcomeNEWS RELEASE: April 6, 2018

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao Region (KMP-SMR)

The international fact-finding mission looking into reported human rights violations in peasant areas in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte was greeted by anonymous “welcome streamers” in Tagum City practically telling delegates to go away.

The messages written on rice sacks read: “OUT NOW IFFSM; WE WANT PEACE”, and were hung along the highway approaching mission areas in the Madaum, Tagum City camp-out of agrarian reform beneficiaries association MARBAI.

The International Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission (IFFSM) is led by farmers’ groups and rights advocates, in particular Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Mindanaons for Civil Liberties,  KARAPATAN, Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN-AP), Asian Peasant Coalition, Tanggol Magsasaka, MASIPAG, ILPS Commission 6, Youth for Food Sovereignty and People’s Coalition for Food and Sovereignty.

According to KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos, the mission’s head of delegation in Southern Mindanao: “Our arrival in Tagum City and our schedule to visit farmers is proof that we are welcome by the people, as they clamor for the chance to reveal their ordeals from the AFP in the height of Martial Law in Mindanao,”

“We are certain that such international delegation investigating the truth behind Martial Law is not a welcome sight for the AFP, notably the 10th Infantry Division in Southern Mindanao.”

“The posting of these streamers is an attempt to terrorize the people and disrupt efforts to probe grave rights abuses perpetrated by the AFP against peasant and Lumad communities in Southern Mindanao,” said Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who is among Makabayan bloc legislators in the delegation.

Casilao, himself a labor leader from Davao City, added that in the context of martial law, the military’s false sense of superiority has heightened, leading to more abuse of power and rampant rights violations.  Following reports of such, it is among the mission’s objectives to document these cases to show the magnitude of rights abuses under martial law.

There have been 63 cases of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao, and many more cases from illegal arrests and trumped up charges of farmers, threats and coercion.

It is among the mission’s objectives to document these cases to show the magnitude of rights abuses under martial law.

The many accounts of the victims of this fascist government institution are more than enough to expound on how it has consistently criminalized legitimate demands of the people and worked towards silencing strong dissenters. Initial findings point to tagging of not only individuals but entire organizations and communities, rendering them even more prone to risk.

“The AFP has no credibility in talking peace. We thus revise the slogan; instead it should read: AFP OUT NOW; WE WANT PEACE,” added Casilao.

The IFFM is slated to run from April 6-8, 2018. A press conference to present the mission’s findings will be held on April 9, 2018 in Davao City.

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