Justice for Mary Jane Veloso, for Filipino migrants, and the Filipino people: Statement of support to International People’s Tribunal on the Philippines

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) expresses our solidarity and support to the ongoing International People’s Tribunal on the Philippines happening now in Brussels, Belgium to investigate Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and his government; US Pres. Donald Trump and his government; imperialist instruments such as the IMF, WB and WTO, and; transnational corporations and banks operating in the Philippines, for crimes against the Filipino people.

Indeed, it is high time to take the accused into account for gross violations of civil and political rights, economic and social and cultural rights, and the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples.

We most welcome the inclusion of the concerns of Filipino migrant workers in the charges. We are very happy to know that the IPT shall take up the case of Mary Jane Veloso – with her mother, Celia Veloso, as key witness. Mary Jane is a Filipina domestic worker abandoned by Philippine government and detained in Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta, Indonesia since 2010. As the world knows, the national and international collective actions forced the Indonesian government to give her a reprieve from execution in 2012.

In their quest for Mary Jane’s freedom her parents attempted several times to visit Pres. Duterte to make good of his promise of helping Mary Jane to escape from death row. Those missed visit and the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs has failed to communicate with the Veloso family it is a clear indication that the Duterte government already abandoned her case.

Two years into his term and the Duterte government has not shown any real progress in the protection and promotion of rights of and service for Filipinos overseas. Instead, the regime continues to perpetuate imperialist-dictated policies that enforce forced migration, systematize labor export, and deprive Filipino migrants of a future free from modern-day slavery and commodification.

Mary Jane Veloso represents the concrete realities of more than 12 million Filipino migrants whose urgent need to survive from abject poverty, landlessness and unemployment – caused by the faithful adherence of Duterte to the imperialist US-led policies of neoliberal globalization – have made them vulnerable to all forms of abuses, exploitation, trafficking and modern slavery in many destination countries. Instead of addressing the root causes of the forced migration of Filipino people, the Duterte government has proven to be no different from his predecessors who were all high on promises of service, protection and assuring the return of Filipinos to a more decent life in the Philippines, but were more concerned with increasing remittances, cornering overseas job markets, and profiting from the migration process.

Through the IPT on the Philippines, the IMA hopes that the call for justice for Mary Jane Veloso, for Filipino migrants and people will intensify.

The IMA looks forward to a positive verdict, and vows to work in solidarity with the Filipino migrants and people for their quest for justice.

Reference: Eni Lestari, IMA Chairperson

Interfaith Mission for Solidarity and Service with Migrants, Refugees and Uprooted People 12 to 14 September 2018 Jakarta, Indonesia

I. Rationale and Background

“… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”’[ Matthew 25: 34-36]

The Asia Consultation on Forced Migration and Human Trafficking for Labour: A Call for Decent Work and Decent Living held last 9-11 October 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar – jointly organized by the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and Council of Churches in Myanmar (CCM) – provided opportunities for churches and ecumenical organizations as well as migrant serving institutions and grassroots migrant organizations in Asia to work together and strengthen support to combat human trafficking and to campaign for decent work.

One of the important actions made during the said conference is to further such cooperation by supporting the Global Campaign to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso and other victims of human trafficking. The communiqué of the consultation explicitly expressed solidarity with Mary Jane Veloso and her family in their struggle for freedom and for her to be reunited with her family in the Philippines:

“Her case is emblematic of the precarious situation that many trafficking victims and migrant workers in forced migration experience today. The relentless campaign by family, friends, churches and advocates in the Philippines, Indonesia and around the world, is equally emblematic of what united action can do—which is to gain a reprieve from execution from the Indonesian government. But the plight of Mary Jane is far from over. To seek justice for Mary Jane Veloso means seeking the commutation of her death sentence and her release, back to her family and community. It also means seeking redress from her traffickers and bringing them to justice.”[ Communiqué of Asia Consultation on Forced Migration and Human Trafficking: A Call for Decent Work and Decent Living ]

With an opportunity to further the cooperation and partnership, a follow-up activity is necessary to broaden the scope of solidarity and service not only with migrants but also with refugees and uprooted people in Asia. The case of Mary Jane Veloso will serve as a take-off point to broaden the scope of solidarity and services that churches and ecumenical organizations and other faith based organizations as well as migrant serving institutions can provide to migrants, refugees and uprooted people in defense of their lives, human rights and dignity.
Migrants, refugees and uprooted people their struggle for decent lives, human rights and dignity

In recent years there is a phenomenal increase in the global population of migrants from the year 2000 to 2017. According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) study there are now an estimated 258 million people living in a country other than their country of birth — an increase of 49% since 2000.[ International Migration Reports 2017 (Highlights), https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/international-migration-report-2017.html%5D The numbers do not includes refugees and uprooted people who are also victims of forced migration and are compelled with an urgency to survive.

Such increasing numbers of migrants, refugees and uprooted people leaving their families behind are attributed to wars and ongoing conflicts, including those arising from political persecution and religious and cultural intolerance around the world, have resulted into forced migration, creating unprecedented numbers and massive movement of refugees and uprooting of peoples. The uneven development of economies and labor export policies of certain countries have resulted into forced movement of peoples seeking employment and other economic opportunities. We must put to stop the scourge of human smuggling and trafficking in persons that occur along the path and chain of migration and mobility.[ Churches Witnessing with Migrants (CWWM), Eight International Consultation, Berlin, Germany, 25-27 June 2017]

Amidst the struggle of migrants, refugees and uprooted people for decent lives, human rights and dignity, churches and ecumenical organizations and other faith-based organizations are facing the challenge to stand in solidarity with them until the fulfillment of their just and legitimate aspirations are realized. Extending services that address the immediate need of migrants, refugees and uprooted peoples that cater to their wellbeing and survival (hospitality, accompaniment and acts of mercy).

II. About the Interfaith Solidarity Mission

The Interfaith Mission for Solidarity and Service with Migrants, Refugees and Uprooted People is a joint initiative of faith groups, migrant-serving institutions, advocates and migrant organizations to address the problem of forced migration and human trafficking. It is a three day event scheduled on 12 to 14 of September 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia and is aimed to contribute to the Global Campaign to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso and to strengthen support and cooperation among migrants and churches and ecumenical and other faith based organizations in Asia Pacific and Middle East Region to stand in solidarity and render services with migrants, refugees and uprooted people in Asia.

The Interfaith Mission is a follow-up activity and a unity made after the Asia Consultation on Human Trafficking and Forced Migration: A Call for Decent Labour and Living Wage in Yangon, Myanmar.

The specific objectives of the Interfaith Solidarity Mission are the following:

1)Contribute to the global campaign to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso and other victims of human trafficking in Asia Pacific and Middle East regions while raising the awareness of participants on the crisis of migration affecting the migrants, refugees and uprooted people and their families;

2)Come-up with plan of actions that can strengthen regional cooperation and coordination in combatting human trafficking, saving the lives of the victims and advancing the right for decent work, justice and human rights;

3)To develop a system of referrals to be coordinated in the region to protect the lives of the labor trafficking victims; migrants, refugees and uprooted people in Asia Pacific and Middle East regions

III. Activities of the Interfaith Solidarity Mission:
The following are activities of the interfaith mission and what are being expected:

1. Regional (Asia-Pacific) Interfaith Solidarity Conference: A one and a half-day conference on solidarity and service with migrants, refugees and uprooted people. Conference resolutions and statement as well as platform of cooperation and partnership among different churches and ecumenical organizations and other faith based organizations, migrant serving institutions and grassroots migrant organizations will be discussed.

2. Forum and Dialogue with Indonesian Government Officials: An afternoon forum and dialogue with some government officials of Indonesia including from the office of the Ministry of Labor, human rights and women commissions and some Parliamentarian will be in attendance to discuss the issues of labor trafficking and the rights and protections of migrants. Local communities, leaders of faith based organizations and migrant organizations in Indonesia will be invited along with international participants to attend the event.

3. Jail visitation: Some international participants (those who signify to join) as well as leaders from Communion of Churches in Indonesia and Kaluarga Besar Buruh Migran Indonesia (KABAR BUMI) and other human rights and justice advocates will visit Mary Jane Veloso in prison. It is a good opportunity to hear Mary Jane’s story of hope and struggle and convey our solidarity. Participants need to reserve a whole day for this activity including travel from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and return. Also please be noted that the prison authorities only allowed maximum of 10 persons per visit/day.

IV. Organizers

The Communion of Churches in Indonesia/ Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja di Indonesia (NCCI/PGI), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Migrante International, Kaluarga Besar Buruh Migran Indonesia (KABAR BUMI) and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) jointly organize the interfaith mission.

V. Schedules

Arrival date: 11 September 2018 (Tuesday)
Departure date: 14 September 2018 (Friday)
15 September (Saturday) – for those who are joining the jail visit on 14th September.VI. Accommodation and Conference Venue

Communion of Churches in Indonesia (CCI)
(Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja Di Indonesia – PGI)
Jl. Salemba Raya 10 Jakarta 10430, Indonesia
Tel. +62-21-3150451, 3150455 / Website: http://www.pgi.or.id

IMA Statement on Duterte visit to Israel

To Philippines and Israel: Uphold rights and dignity of migrant and peoples! End war and exploitation!

Uphold migrants and people’s rights. End fascism and war!

This is the message of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) to both Philippine and Israeli governments in the light of the planned visit by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to Israel this September.

Among many other objectives, the visit is intended to have both governments strengthen relations on the issues of security and counter-terrorism. Israel is known to supply arms to the Philippine government. However, rumors abound that Duterte will also visit Israel to seek medical attention as his health condition is allegedly failing.

For the IMA, both governments have to account for their many policies and actions that have violated the rights and dignity of people.

Israel, for example, needs to answer for the many crimes it has committed against the people of Palestine. Since the Al-Nakba, the Palestinian exodus of 1948 that saw the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinian people from their homeland, the Israeli government has been relentless and unabashed in its occupation of Palestinian territory while mercilessly assaulting and mistreating the Palestinians.

Philippines, on the other hand, has seen the onerous rise of civilian deaths (approximated at 14,000 deaths) claimed by Duterte’s wars (war against drugs, martial law in Mindanao, and war against terrorism). Some of these victims were relatives of Filipino migrants or were formerly migrant workers. Recently, many of its agencies have harassed, intimidated and attacked the rights of foreign nationals visiting, residing or working in the Philippines.

While Philippines is a migrant-sending country and Israel is a migrant destination, governments of both countries have issued policies and actions proved detrimental to the interests of migrants and peoples. The Philippine government, for one, has reneged on its promise of resolving the phenomenon of forced migration and instead sped up the export of more Filipino labor abroad. It won’t be a surprise if Philippines will start sending migrant workers to Israel despite the latter’s absent regard for migrants’ rights.

Both governments also need to provide support to, and not persecute, approximately 6,000 undocumented migrant Filipinos in Israel, many of whom may have been trafficking victims. In 2008, the Israeli people were successful in stopping the Israeli government’s plan to deport 1,200 children of undocumented migrants.

The IMA believes that capitalist exploitation and war has caused the intensification of international migration we have characterized as forced. People from impoverished countries become cheap, docile and expendable exported labor with limited rights and movements as refugees grow in number due to wars of aggression and proxy wars. Both governments are party to these and should immediately refrain from continuing any further.

The International Migrants Alliance values the life and dignity of migrants and their families. No family should be broken apart by their need to survive. The Philippine and Israeli governments should uphold the rights, freedoms and dignity of their people and other nationals by ending their unjust and oppressive wars. #

Reference:

Eni Lestari, chairperson

ima.sect@gmail.com

A World Without Forced Migration: Statement of the International Migrants Alliance on the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration 30 June 2018

It seems to me that no country is interested in the protection of rights of migrants.

This statement by a Colombian migrant in Europe aptly reflects and summarizes the over-all sentiment and position of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) on the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration (GCM).

What is the GCM?

What is the GCM and what is its significance to the global migrant movement? The GCM is one of the two global compacts (the other being the Global Compact on Refugees) that were to be developed as a response of the United Nations to the problems confronting international migration and the intensifying global refugee crisis.

This was announced during the UN Summit on Migrants and Refugees in New York City, USA on September 19, 2016 in which IMA chairperson Eni Lestari was invited to represent the migrant sector and to speak in the opening panel. There, she challenged governments and other stakeholders to commit to address the problems facing migrants everywhere and to finally put a stop on forced migration.

Two years have passed and after three drafts of the GCM zero draft which the IMA’s leaders and members have read and discussed, we can therefore concludethat the GCM does not provide a clear and actionable solution to the myriad of problems that beleaguered migrants and their families, much less the resolution of the phenomenon of forced migration.

The Problem with the Global Compact on Migration

Let us start by stating the obvious – the GCM offers no actionable points on resolving problems confronting migrants, neither does ithold anyState accountable to implementing the compact.

The GCM is packed with positive provisions tackling a comprehensive array of issues confronting migrants. These provisions in fact reflect what the migrants have been steadfastly campaigning governments to act on, some of which are commodification and exploitation of labour, trafficking of peoples, and slave-like treatment and conditions of migrant workers.

By wielding the sovereignty card at the beginning, the GCM has already set governments free from any commitment or liability. So,despite its adoption by the end of this year, the GCM may not make any significant impact on the migrants’ worsening situation, given that border controls are already being tightened across Europe, immigration laws are becoming more restrictive, and the criminalization of migrants, undocumented or otherwise, continues to be legislated.

The United States, notorious for instigatingxenophobia and discriminationagainst migrants, has already backed out from the GCM process – a decision that is reflective of its escalating war against migrants as well as a bad precedent forothergovernments to emulate.

GCM – A Neoliberal Agenda

Despite the palliative on championing migrants’ rights, the GCM clearly promotes the neoliberal agenda of managing migration for development. It has blatantly ignored the historical and current attributions of forced migration while presenting it as a normal phenomenon that can be taken advantage of and exploited for maximum profit.

It only aims to perpetuate the export of cheap, skilled and semi-skilled, docile and disposable labor from underdeveloped countries, continually stunted by neoliberal policies.

Neoliberal globalization cannot resolve the current imperialist crisis; it was the one that caused it and it is the same system that willaggravate it. Through its policies of privatization, deregulation, liberalization and denationalization, many poor countries continue to be economically insecure, dependent on foreign aid, and peddling their nationals for cheap labor export.

Under neoliberal globalization, the commodification of migrant labor has become prevalent and so has modern-day slavery. Thesituation of migrants isno different from that ofasylum seekers and refugees who have been cast away from their land because of conflicts, warsof aggression and occupation,and proxy warsyet continue to be subjected to inhumane treatment, criminalization, violence and genocide.

Will the Global Compact on Refugees concretely address the problems confronting the 600,000 Rohingya refugees, the millions of Palestinians seemingly perpetually aggressed by the Israeli government since the Al-Nakba, the many Africans who are loss at sea?

Neither of theseglobal compacts is legally binding, has referenced the historical and current reality facing migrants and refugees, nor has prioritized human rights-based approach over the neoliberal framework.

Building the Movement for Change

As we acknowledge the efforts placed in the process of developing the document, the International Migrants Alliancewill go beyond the Global Compact on Migration in pursuing the full recognition and respect of the rights of migrants and their families and the conclusion of forced migration.

We have proven time and again that it is only through the concerted efforts of grassroots migrants to educate, organize and mobilize among them to struggle collectively for and win their just demands. From wage hikes to saving migrants in jail to addressing anti-migrant policies, we have won victories through our unified actions and campaigns. Such initiatives contribute to a growing migrant movement from the country to the global level. The existence of the IMA is proof to this.

Not only did the IMA but the whole world celebrated when Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih won her case against her abusive Hong Kong employer. It was the concerted efforts of grassroots migrant organizations, migrant-serving institutions, local advocates and human rights defenders in Hong Kong as well as other members of the international community that broadcast to the whole world the horrors facing migrant domestic workers through the case of Erwiana. Erwiana’s win in the legal battle was a score for the migrant movement that continues to assert the protection and respect of migrants all over the world.

Countless victories for migrants were won because of our collective efforts and campaigns – the campaign to keep cancer-stricken Juana Tejada from being deported from Canada has led to the passing of a law protecting temporary migrant workers there; the broad international solidarity campaign, togethe with collaborative efforts of progressive and pro-migrant lawyers from Indonesia, Philippines and Australia, have successfully pressured the Indonesian government to commute the death sentence for drug and human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso; and the justice given to survivors of trafficking and slavery.

The strength of the global migrant movement relies on the continuous, steadfast and collective efforts of migrant organizations, unions and movements on the ground that unite with local peoples and all friends, forge solidarity and work in a framework that champions the rights, welfare and dignity of the people over the capitalist interests of a few. This is the very framework by which the International Migrants Alliance leads the movement.

This is the framework by which we campaign and work towards a world where no family is broken apart by the need to survive, where migration is not anymore forced but is a right and a choice, and where all actors – governments, institutions, business and peoples – are accountable to one another.

As long as neoliberal globalization exists, forced migration and the hardships of migrants will persist. This is the reality that we will have to steadfastly challenge and change.

We have a world to win. A world without forced migration, a world without neoliberal globalization.

Reference: Eni Lestari, chairperson

Uphold the rights of migrants in Malaysia! Stop the Ops Mega 3.0!

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing crackdown on all undocumented migrants in Malaysia and urgently calls on the newly installed Malaysian government to immediately cease this national operation.

The operations called “Ops Mega 3.0” will arrest undocumented migrant workers and their respective employers, slap them with fines up to 50,000 Malaysian ringgit (USD12,450), and have them committed to five-year imprisonment with six cane strokes. This operation was enacted on July 1, one day after the rehiring programme was concluded.

Recent news reports have pegged the number of arrested migrants to 20,000 as well as employers and this is expected to balloon with the Immigration Director-General’s pronouncement to continue with the crackdown.

Malaysia has gained notoriety for its long record of human rights violations committed against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. As problems of debt bondage, labor trafficking, contract violations, and even exploitation by brokers and agencies confront migrants, the Malaysian government has not provided a sufficient mechanism for redress for migrants nor has it improved problematic immigrant and visa regulations and processes for them.

The gruesome death of 21-year old Indonesian domestic worker Adelina Lisao in February exposes the criminal neglect of the Malaysian government to the plight of migrants there.

Past crackdowns by the Malaysian government have not resolved the growing number of undocumented migrants in the country. Instead of substantively addressing and finding solutions as to how and why migrants become and remain undocumented in Malaysia, the Malaysian government has only intensified over the years the arrest, detention and deportation of migrants, subjecting them to inhumane conditions and placing them in great harm, even death.

No migrant wants to be illegal. Undocumented or irregular migration is the result of migrants fleeing or trying to survive from multiple forms of exploitation. It is the only way out for migrants who bear the brunt of the crisis of neoliberal globalization.

The IMA fully supports and joins the Malaysian Bar, Tenaganita and all civil society in Malaysia and across the world calling on the Malaysian government to stop Ops Mega 3.0. The Malaysian Bar is correct in saying that “a significant number of migrants are undocumented for no fault of their own” and should not be blamed and punished. We hope that other members of Malaysian civil society will rethink their decision to support the government’s crackdown and instead join the call to uphold and protect migrants’ rights.

The Malaysian government should cease the crackdown on migrants immediately. In addition, it should call for a national investigation involving civil society, especially grassroots migrant organizations that shall look into the current conditions of the more than six million migrants residing and working in the country and find long-term solutions.

Malaysia has signed and agreed to many international labor and human rights conventions, including the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. It should uphold and domesticate policies in adherence to these conventions, for the crackdown is definitely a step-back and violation of any human right is already one too many.

The IMA calls on all its member organizations worldwide to issue their respective letters of concern regarding this issue and, depending on their capacity, hold actions in front of the Malaysian embassies in their respective areas.

We shall closely follow this development as we coordinate with our members, partners and friends in Malaysia for possible initiatives to support the call to uphold migrants’ rights and end the crackdown.

Uphold the rights, welfare and dignity of undocumented migrants!

Stop criminalization of migrants!

Stop the crackdown on migrants!

Stop the arrest, detention and deportation of migrants!

Reference: Eni Lestari, chairperson

Note:

For more information about the crackdown, please refer to these newslinks –

1. Malaysia cracks down on illegal workers (The Daily Star)
2. Malaysia urged to stop crackdown (The Daily Star)
3. Crackdown on illegal immigrants will continue: Immigration DG(New Straits Times)

You may also look into these –
1. ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers
2. The Bangkok Declaration on Irregular Migration

Build migrant and worker solidarity against capitalist exploitation and war! IMA Statement for International Labor Day 2018

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) hails all migrant and local workers around the world as they come together, build and strengthen solidarity for just wages, employment and workers’ rights protection, and collectively call for a world without imperialist exploitation and war.

As repression against workers heightens in many parts of the world, the IMA does not only bear witness but contributes to establishing and fortifying links between trade unions and migrant workers’ organizations to champion their rights and build collective strength. In recent years, many of IMA’s members have initiated trade union-migrant dialogues to bridge understanding between migrant and local workers’ conditions, explore the possibility of recruiting migrants to union (which is already being practiced in some countries), and frustrate reactionary governments’ divide-and-rule tactics.

Now, more than ever, migrant workers need to aggressively arouse, organize and mobilize themselves, link up with local unions and other solidarity groups, and engage in local to international arenas to advance workers’ rights, welfare and dignity.

Imperialism is intensifying its war against workers – by revising labor laws that water down workers’ rights and pull down already subhuman wages while favoring big business, continuing to exclude certain migrant workers’ groups from labor laws while perpetuating racism and discrimination, and threatening and actually supporting proxy wars that destroy communities, kill people, and displace thousands of peoples from their homes, places of work and motherlands.

As governments of migrant-destination countries are challenged to recognize and respect migrant workers’ rights and implement laws to realize this, migrant-sending governments should also remain accountable to its citizens who work abroad. No migrant worker’s source of livelihood, dignity or even life should be placed in danger at any possible circumstance.

The IMA calls on all members to further intensify our struggle and contribute to a global movement that shall end forced migration. Let us look forward to and work for a world where families are not broken up by the need to survive.

Workers of the world, unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains!

Long live the migrants’ movement!

Long live the workers’ movement!

Long live international solidarity!

 

UPDATE on the International Fact-Finding Mission to Defend Filipino Peasants’ Land and Human Rights Against Militarism and Plunder in Mindanao

NEWS RELEASE

April 6, 2018

On day 1 of international fact-finding mission in Mindanao:

rights defenders and peace advocates, met with military harassment and intimidation

Divided into three teams to simultaneously probe cases of human rights violations in peasant and Lumad communities in Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and the Caraga region, members of the International Fact-Finding Mission to Defend Filipino Peasants’ Land and Human Rights Against Militarism and Plunder in Mindanao were met by military intimidation and harassment just as soon as they arrived early this morning at their respective airports of destination in Davao City, Lagindingan and Butuan City.

“We were welcomed by presumably state troops who kept on taking pictures of our mission team to obviously intimidate us or discourage us. They even flashed a tarp banner at us with the words “just do it right,” they’re veiled but malicious way of course of trying to threaten us,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and head of the Caraga mission team. The same style of “welcome” were reported by the two other mission teams.

The teams were also reported to have been closely tailed by several vehicles on their way from the airport to the orientation sites and from there to the barangays where focused group discussions with rights violation victims were scheduled to be conducted. The convoys of the mission groups were also stopped several times at different points by combined elements of the PNP and Scout Rangers for no apparent reasons.

“Our team were blocked for three times by police and military forces on our way from the airport in Lagindingan to Cagayan de Oro, and another eight times from there to the mission site in Barangay Patpat in Malaybalay, delaying our trip unduly and proving just how keen the authorities are in Mindanao in trying to derail our fact-finding mission,” said Rafael “Ka Paeng Mariano, former secretary of the Department of Agrarian reform and head of the Northern Mindanao mission team.

The teams, however, were undeterred and were able to finally proceed to their respective mission areas. “We managed to get past all the checkpoints so far after seemingly endless negotiations with the state forces but this is only the first day and the day is still long and so we must remain vigilant throughout the rest of the day and the entire duration of the three-day mission. We came here for a very urgent reason, we came here to verify mounting reports of rights abuse against peasant and Lumad communities perpetrated allegedly by military elements. Political extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations have not waned and there is no sign whatsoever that the AFP will de-escalate its militarization campaign in the countryside. There are already 126 documented victims of political killings as of December 2017; 110 victims are farmers and peasant leaders mostly coming from Mindanao. No wonder the military people do not want us here,” Mariano said.

According to KMP, these atrocities in Mindanao and other parts of the country are part of government’s counterinsurgency campaign “Oplan Kapayapaan” that tags civilians as members and or supporters of armed rebel groups and are therefore “fair game” or targets of military attacks. A total of 71 full battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are operating in Mindanao, of which 41 are focused on counterinsurgency. At least 65% of the AFP’s combat troops are said to be concentrated in Mindanao, where large-scale foreign plantations and mining concessions are to be found.

“The unabated militarization and Martial Law itself in Mindanao must be understood as a means for government, big landlords, oligarchs and multinational corporations to further bulldoze their way into the vast lands and resources of the island. This is not the way to genuine development when rural folk are displaced and even killed when they resist. This is not the way to address the roots of the armed conflict. This is not the way to a just and lasting peace,” Mariano said.

Mariano and other prominent progressives, rights defenders and peace advocates, including former congressmen Satur Ocampo and Fernando Hicap, and incumbent representatives of the Makabayan bloc, are currently part of the International Fact-Finding Mission to Defend Filipino Peasants’ Land and Human Rights Against Militarism and Plunder in Mindanao which is organized by the KMP and the Mindanao for Civil Liberties. Also joining the 3-day mission are the Asian Peasant Coalition, PAN Asia Pacific, People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) Commission 6, Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS), KARAPATAN, and Tanggol Magsasaka.#

REFERENCES:

Southern Mindanao team:
Danilo Ramos, KMP Chairperson 09974182478
Jay Cuesta, Anakpawis media officer 09425745898
Northern Mindanao team:
Rafael “Ka Paeng’ Mariano 09982898052
Hazel Ramirez, Amihan media officer 09204896066

Caraga team:
Antonio Flores, KMP Sec. Gen 09212726682
Nadja de Vera, UMA media officer 09162436843