Press Release
August 13, 2015


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday called on her colleagues to investigate the continued displacement of some 700 indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao allegedly due to military and paramilitary activities in the area. Santiago, an elected judge of the International Criminal Court, is set to file a resolution based on recommendations made by Dr. Chaloka Beyani, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, who visited the country from July 21 to 31.

"We cannot ignore the plight of indigenous peoples (IPs), who are the ultimate victims of skirmishes between the military and rebels. What is more alarming is that now we are being told that the military or their operatives are the ones terrorizing these communities," the senator said.

She particularly pointed to the IP community now seeking shelter at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) compound in Haran, Davao City amid the presence of armed entities in their ancestral lands.

Some government agencies however insist that the evacuees have been deceived by militant groups who are now holding them at the church compound against their will. There have even been controversial attempts to "rescue" the displaced IPs.

Santiago's statement comes hours after Beyani slammed the AFP for distorting his pronouncements to make it appear that he believed the IPs at UCCP Haran have been displaced by human trafficking and not by militarization.

"The military is in bad faith if indeed it is twisting the report of the UN special rapporteur to spread false information about the situation in Davao City," the senator said.

Amid conflicting claims, Santiago said the Senate probe must determine whether the armed groups who forced the IPs out of their homes are government troops, communist rebels, or members of paramilitary organizations.

The senator also raised concern over alleged paramilitary activity in Mindanao. Beyani said IPs complained about forced recruitment into these organizations, particularly Alamara, an anti-communist group founded in 2002 and which is now believed to be working with he AFP.

"The Senate must investigate allegations that the military perpetuates the operations of paramilitary groups, whose activities displace and destroy communities not only in Mindanao, but also in other parts of the country," Santiago said.

She added that the Senate must also consider the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur that specific provisions on the rights of IPs be included in Senate Bill No. 2785, also known as the Rights of Displaced Persons Act, which President Aquino considers a priority.

This is not the first time Santiago urged the Senate to investigate alleged military abuse in Mindanao. In June, she proposed Senate Resolution No. 1392, calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the reported closure of Lumad schools in Davao del Norte.

Santiago remains on medical leave due to lung cancer, stage four, but continues to fulfill her Senate duties by filing bills and resolutions. She also announced in July that she might join the presidential race in 2016.

News Latest News Feed