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Rights groups report Philippine military bombings

Accuse government of puting hinterland communities in firing line in campaign against rebel, terror groups

Rights groups report Philippine military bombings

Tribal people protest alleged police and military abuses during a demonstration in Manila. (Photo by Mike Taboy)

 

ucanews.com reporter, Manila
Philippines

March 17, 2017

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A series of military bombardments of suspected rebel hideouts has displaced thousands of tribal people in the northern and southern provinces of the Philippines.

Human rights group Karapatan reported that the aerial bombings started on March 9 after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military and the police to attack rebel strongholds.

"The directives to bomb and flatten the hills have severe repercussions on the ground," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan’s secretary-general.

Palabay said military operations against rebels in Compostela Valley province since March 11 have already displaced at least 500 people in two villages.

In the village of Andabit in Maguindanao, some 2,000 people fled their homes after at least four bombs were dropped.

In a statement, the army's 6th Infantry Division said the attacks were meant to drive away members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group linked to the so-called Islamic State.

In the northern Philippine province of Abra, fighter jets were reported to have launched raids on the village of Malibcong.

Imelda Tabiando, secretary-general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, said the military operation razed the forested part of the village of Lat-ey. 

She said the operation, which has reportedly affected some 600 tribal people, including 200 children, led to the cancellation of classes in schools this week.

"The cause of the unrest is not solved by bombing communities or perpetrating more rights abuses," said Palabay, as she urged Duterte to order a halt to the attacks.

Congressman Isagani Zarate, a member of the opposition bloc in Congress, condemned the attacks, saying that it caused "widespread destruction of property and trauma" to tribal people.

"In line with the resumption of peace negotiations, the military should stop this rampage to have a more conducive atmosphere for the talks," said the legislator.

"We call on President Duterte to order an immediate stop to these indiscriminate bombings and hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations against our people," said Zarate.

The Philippine government and communist rebels have announced the resumption of peace negotiations next month to end almost five decades of armed conflict.

Beverly Longid of the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation said that even as they welcome the resumption of the talks, "we continue to condemn the government’s all-out war and its resulting human-rights violations."

"The all-out war being conducted by state forces should immediately stop to give affected tribal people the soonest possible time to recover and rebuild," said Longid.

She said the government's renewed military campaign in the provinces "puts the whole [peace] process and more lives in peril."

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