The Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) is gravely concerned on the continuing militarization of communities in the municipalities of Tinoc and Asipulo, Ifugao.
These military operations endanger the lives of the Ifugao indigenous people. IPM local chapters reported the continuing use of barangay halls as military barracks of the 54th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) in barangays Gumhang and Binablayan, Tinoc while some were stationed in barangay Poblacion and in Sitio Mansuyusoy on the boundary of Tinoc, Ifugao and Buguias, Benguet. These encampments is making Tinoc look like a military garrison.
Occupying public areas such as barangay halls is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL).
In another case that was reported by a local radio station, it states that on November 18, 2016, a certain Arnel Ngoya, a civilian working in sitio Mansuyusoy was allegedly shot by an unnamed member of the 54th IB. Accordingly, Ngoya survived and was brought to a hospital. Based on the said local radio report, Lt. Col. Nicasio Quemado Jr., the commanding officer of the 54th IB dismissed the allegation stating that what happened was an act of self defense and blamed Mr. Ngoya for allegedly grabbing the gun of one a military soldier. However, based on the statement of the witnesses, they said that it was the unnamed military who attacked Ngoya.
The IPM also shares the same suspicion of the Kalanguya Indigenous Peoples in Tinoc that the deployment of military troops in their communities is a clear maneuver to compel the people to allow the Sta. Clara Power Corporation proposed 11.5MW minihydro project with a tunneling component.
Sta. Clara Power Co. is reviving their proposed project despite the fact that the project was already met with resistance by the affected communities. The Kalanguyas and IPM view the huge military deployment in their communities as investment defense force for Sta. Clara Power Co.
Despite also with the on-going peace talks and ceasefire, many Kalanguyas do not know such ceasefire exist especially that the 54th IB continue to instill a climate of fear instead of promoting the peace.
In Nakatingey, Asipulo, the military withdrew their encampment inside the community but reinforced the existing encampment in the barangay hall and the community of Cawayan, Asipulo. As a result, the military deployment in Ifugao has hindered the indigenous people way of life, preventing many of them from accessing their natural resources due to fear.
The IPM supports the call of the communities in Tinoc and Ifugao for the 54th IBPA to go back to their barracks and stop their atrocities against the people.
We also believe that the pull out of 54th IBPA will create a peaceful climate and pave the way for the success of the ongoing peace talks where substantive issues and the root causes of peoples sufferings will be discussed and find solutions to it.
The entry of corporate energy projects in IP territories, fair price of farmers’ products, government subsidy for agriculture, and indigenous people’s rights are some of issues the Ifugao people want to address.
Lastly, the military should listen to their Commander-In-Chief and support the peace talks instead of their tired-old antics of anti-insurgency campaigns that place civilians in danger. ***