‘Criminalization’ of humanitarian acts slammed

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THE Bagong Alyansang Makabayan blasted the filing of cases against known personalities who supported the displaced Indigenous Peoples from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

Bayan spokesperson Teddy Casiño said the filing of cases against Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and leaders of progressive organizations was “tantamount to the criminalization of humanitarian acts and human rights advocacy.”

Casiño, a former Bayan Muna lawmaker, said there was no doubt that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was the one who instigated the filing of the charges.

Col. Jake Obligado, chief information officer of Eastern Mindanao Command, did not deny this claim.

“That is partly true,” he said. “We were involved in the gathering of information and evidence against them. This is the time where this matter is brought to the court and every party instead tackle it legally.”

Cases of kidnapping, human trafficking and child abuse filed by the regional PNP-CIDG against 22 lumad supporters, human rights defenders and church workers.

“These are meant to intimidate and vilify groups and individuals who provide support and refuge to lumad and peasant communities fleeing military operations,” Casiño said.

Around 700 displanced IPs are temporarily housed in the compound of UCCP Haran in Davao City. North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco earlier attempted to forcibly evict them but it turned violent as they held their ground, their refusal latched on their fear of the soldiers in their communities and the forced recruitment of militia group Alamara.

The complainants said the IPs at Haran are being held against their will. Catamco and the Eastern Mindanao Command said the IPs are victims of trafficking and kidnapping.

“Is giving sanctuary and support to internally displaced persons now considered kidnapping and human trafficking? Is helping a girl file charges against soldiers who allegedly raped her now considered child abuse?” Casiño said. “Before, they would charge us activists with acts committed by NPA rebels. But most of these ridiculous cases have been dismissed. Now they’ve resorted to charging us for our work in helping the lumad and other marginalized sectors.”

Bayan Davao Secretary General Sheena Duazo said that since last year, 20 such cases, called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), have been instigated by the AFP, PNP and other government agencies in various parts of Mindanao against human rights defenders and activists providing support to displaced lumad and peasant communities.

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