Phillipines: Indigenous peoples denounce rape of minors in Benguet, demand military pullout in all indigenous communities
KATRIBU Partylist demanded the immediate pullout of State armed forces in the Cordillera, citing human rights violations that ensue in militarized communities, one of which is the alleged rape of two girls by a military official in Benguet.
“Katrina” and “Isabel” are 16-year old high school students from a mining town in Mankayan, Benguet. Isabel failed to graduate due to severe trauma she sustained from the rape committed allegedly by one Captain Danilo Lalin of the 50th Infantry Battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that is stationed in the town. Katrina was also allegedly raped by the same military officer in December 2011.
“Militarization of our communities has severe cultural, economic and social impacts. It endangers the lives of civilians—not from the rebels they are allegedly pursuing, but from the State armed force themselves. The rape of these minors is but a glimpse of the numerous atrocities the military inflict upon the indigenous peoples,” Piya Macliing Malayao, KAMP spokesperson said.
According to Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) in 2002, sexual violence forms part of the military operations to control communities. From the period of 1986 to 2001, a study documented 98 cases of women and 119 children abandoned by soldiers in selected communities of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga where there was prolonged military presence. Abandonment, sexual harassment and rape are forms of violence intended to humiliate the women and their communities, erode their dignity, and impress on them their powerlessness.
According to Kakay Tolentino, a Dumagat and spokesperson of KATRIBU Partylist, “These violations due to militarization is closely linked to the government’s support of foreign-funded development projects in indigenous communities. Not only are women’s rights violated but also of indigenous peoples’ collective rights to land.”
The 28th Cordillera Day is not a celebration, but a protest, Malayao said. The Cordillera Day is a regional annual event in provinces of the Cordillera, attended by 6,000 people from the Philippines and other countries.
“The Cordillera Day is supposed to be a celebration of our triumphs as a people, in memory of the Cordilleran hero Macliing Dulag. However, the celebrations are eclipsed by the challenges we now face, amid large-scale mining and human rights violations,” Malayao said.
“The reason behind the presence of military in IP communities is not to secure the people but to protect development projects such as mines, dams and other businesses. The Cordillera people are faced with numerous threats to their rights,” Tolentino added. According to KATRIBU Partylist, 60% of the whole region has mining applications, aside from other projects such as dams. Militarization is also as rampant, with several battalions occupying villages in Abra.
The Cordillera Day will be held on last week of April on several provinces in the region: Ifugao, Mountain Province, Benguet, Abra, and Kalinga. It is themed “Fight for land, Life, and Rights!”
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