2 September 2009
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619
“Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have not completely left the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur” declared Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan. “This is contradicts earlier statement of the AFP that it already pulled out its forces in the area, as agreed upon by the local government officials and military officers deployed in the besieged communities.
Ilagan, who joined a medical and relief mission to Pantukan, Surigao del Sur on August 30 saw with her own eyes the continued presence of armed men, confirmed by the residents as soldiers, still camped out beside the school building.
“They were arrogant and did not even try to cover up their presence,” Ilagan said. “While the mission was commencing, they tried to blend in with the people and took the pictures and the names of the delegates and the lumads who joined the mission.”
On Sunday, when the mission was sending the lumads to their homes in Lianga, soldiers in full uniform carrying high-power arms, were seen manning a checkpoint a few minutes away from civilian houses and school.
“While the lumads are generally happy to have finally returned to their homes after three months of stay at the evacuation center, it is obvious they still fear for their future. We cannot blame them as militarization has been part of their lives since 2005. They have repeatedly been harassed – one of their tribe members died in 2007 and four are missing until present – and displaced, and unless the military permanently pulls out its troops in Surigao del Sur, there is a chance that it will happen again in the near future,” Ilagan said.