Manila, Philippines – On the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) expressed grave concern that the rural poor such as farmers, indigenous peoples, and agricultural workers as God’s children continue to be victims of injustice and human rights abuses under the Aquino administration. The church group attributed this to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s implementation of his counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. RMP affirmed that it is morally just to join the public clamor in calling for justice for the victims of crimes against humanity.
“Mostly, the victims were from groups who are asserting their rights to land against land grabbing, displacement, mining, expansion of plantations and other forms of oppression and exploitation. Already victims of massive militarization that led to mass evacuations, such as the current situation of Lumad in Mindanao, they continue to be targets of harassment of government forces,” RMP national coordinator Sr. Francis Anover, rsm said.
As of September 2015, the Karapatan human rights group documented 294 cases of extra-judicial killings, including 215 farmers, 75 indigenous peoples and 5 fisherfolk. In Mindanao, about 60% of the forces of Philippine military, including 55 combat battalions and more than 20 para-military groups such as the Magahat and Alamara were deployed. More than 40,000 Lumad were victimized of mass evacuation brought about by massive militarization. Victims of extra-judicial killings reached to 144, more than 250 were victims of trumped up charges, 87 Lumad schools were attacked by the military immediately obstructing the education of more than a thousand children. About 233 human rights violations victimized children. As of October 2015, 56 Lumad were victims of extra-judicial killings.
“Even our chief agriculturist of the RMP Southern Mindanao region was illegally arrested in October 16, 2014 in Makilam Village, Tagum City, Davao del Norte by the elements of Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and was accused as a high-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) wit a P4.8 million bounty on his head,” added by Anover.
RMP affirms that the oppression against the rural poor is an instrument of the greedy few such as foreign monopoly, compradors and landlords to plunder land and resources, even at the cost of killing God’s children and creation. The victims of human rights abuses are actually who stood sincere as stewards of God’s creation such as land and the natural environment.
Under Aquino, more than 700,000 hectares of land are covered by mining operations, where each firms take control of 1,700 to 18,000 hectares. Mining in Mindanao covers more than 500,000 hectares, where 130,000 hectares involve foreign countries such as US, Japan, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, China, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. While foreign-controlled plantations in Mindanao cover about 700,000 hectares. Hence, in order for them to take control of these vast tracks of land, direct coercion and abuse against protesting peasant and indigenous communities become a vital measure.
These human rights violations to the rural poor that led to landlessness, hunger and poverty must be immediately stopped. As Pope Francis stated,”Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor,” essentially means we must work together to demand justice for victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the state, other rights abuses and to protect the rights of the marginalized such as farmers and other rural sectors.
“As the victims are all God’s children, it is not only morally just, but realizing the teachings of Christ, to concretely take measures of protecting life itself by joining the public clamor to demand the end of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan that served as root of these atrocities. Along with God’s children is the beautiful God’s creation that is threatened by mining operations fuelled by insatiable greed for profits to which this contempt for life work for, ended by Anover. ###
The RMP is a national organization, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of women and men religious, priests and lay. We live and work with the peasants (farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers).