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Church, rights groups to visit Mindanao

'Mercy mission' plans to investigate, interview and distribute aid in region

Church, rights groups to visit Mindanao
Some displaced families in Mindanao continue to live in makeshift homes
D'Jay Lazaro, Manila

May 13, 2011

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Human rights groups and the Philippine Independent Church will launch next week an "exodus for justice and peace" to look into what they described as the "alarming human rights situation" in southern Mindanao.
Representatives of Church and rights groups will go to Mindanao to investigate reported cases of human rights violations. Activities will include interviews with victims, meetings with local communities, the military and local government officials.
The group will also take relief goods, food and other help it can distribute to the community.
Bishop Delfin Callao, convenor of the trip, said human rights groups observed "major incidents" of rights violations in the area during the first quarter of 2011. The interfaith peace and mercy mission will start on May 20. It aims to hold an "independent, high-profile and citizen-based" investigation and documentation of recent killings. Bishop Callao said that from the last quarter of 2010 to April this year, intense military operations were launched in the area "in the guise of peace and development in peasant and lumad communities." He said the operations "have caused fear and numerous cases of human rights violations." These cases allegedly include harassment and intimidation, forcible surrender of civilians accused of being communist New People’s Army rebels, and extrajudicial killings. Bishop Callao cited as examples the killings of local peasant organization leader Rudy Dejos, 50, and his son Rody Rick Dejos, 26, in February; and the murder of anti-mining activist Santos “Ricky” Manrique in Compostela Valley on April 12. "We are again called to defend the oppressed, to be on the side of truth, and to be advocates of genuine peace and justice," the bishop said. Amnesty International, in its annual report released today, recorded at least 305 cases of extrajudicial execution in the country, adding that "almost no perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice." Amnesty also said "tens of thousands" remained displaced in Mindanao "although the actual number was not known." PM14217
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