End military bombings in Talaingod, Davao del Norte; let Lumad children live peacefully

Talaingod, Davao May 2013
TALAINGOD, DAVAO - Non-stop militarization in Talaingod, Davao del Norte has displaced more than a thousand Talaingod Manobo (lumad or indigenous peoples). A total of 1,353 individuals from 300 families are seeking refuge in Davao City. Photo by Kilab Multimedia.

A labor research group has expressed alarm over the displacement of more than 1,500 Ata-Manobo from their homes in a remote town in Davao del Norte due to non-stop military bombings and strafing of houses in the area.

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said the armed forces should immediately halt their operations in the town of Talaingod that began in March 19 and stop committing further human rights violations against the Manobo tribes.

EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said more than half of the 1,300 displaced Manobos are children, who lost their homes, their school and their village because of military’s encroachment of Talaingod and other towns in Pantaron range.

“The incessant bombings and assault of Manobo families in Talaingod by the Armed Forces of the Philippines clearly run counter to President Benigno Aquino III’s promise of peace for Mindanao. Instead of preserving peace, government forces are sadly the ones causing chaos and misery in the remote area,” EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.

“The Manobo children must live peacefully and enjoy their rights in their villages. They do not deserve this kind of wanton violence,” she added.

The displaced Manobos are currently staying in one of the churches in Davao City while hundreds more have fled to Bukidnon for safety. They are in dire need of food, water, clothing and toiletries.

EILER said the military’s 60th Infantry Battalion continue to crash into Manobo’s homes, accusing them to be communist rebels or supporters of the New People’s Army. But the end-goal of the military is to clear the area for the entry of huge gold mining firms.

“The military is using its anti-insurgency campaign to drive away Manobo families from their homes and pave the way for the entry of five mining corporations and hydro-power firms, a move that will surely destroy Manobo’s sacred land and resources in the name of profit,” Escresa said.

EILER noted that Pantaron range is rich in mineral resources including gold, and is home to five major rivers in Southern Mindanao region.

“Government agencies and cause-oriented groups should act swiftly to address the humanitarian crisis being faced right now by the Manobo people. The potential encroachment of greedy corporations of resource-rich Pantaron range must also be stopped,” Escresa concluded.

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