4 September 2020
Responding to reports of escalating violence in Surigao del Sur between government security forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) which led to the killing of two young indigenous people, Amnesty International Philippines Director, Butch Olano, said:
“Violence between state forces and non-state actors in Surigao del Sur has continued to build up after the Anti-Terrorism Law was enacted in July, with reports of more indigenous communities at risk of getting caught in the crossfire. Amnesty International Philippines has received reports of harassment perpetrated both by the military and NPA where a large number of residents have been internally displaced due to armed violence in the area. Incidents of killings of civilians, some of young indigenous people, are very concerning.
“State forces must not forget to uphold the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law as part of any counter-insurgency strategy. The government should recognize that clashes between state forces and armed groups drastically affect the lives and livelihood of civilians, and must adopt a concrete plan for the internally displaced or those who are forced to flee out of fear for their lives and safety. Such a plan must be developed in full consultation with affected communities.
“Amnesty International Philippines is calling on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), as the main government agency tasked with protecting the interests of Indigenous peoples, to do its job in preventing rights violations against IP groups in the affected areas.
“We denounce indiscriminate attacks brought about by military operations, as well as attacks targeting the general population carried out by non-state actors. We call on the military and the NPA to refrain from any attack of this nature. All attacks targeting members of the general population must be promptly and effectively investigated, those suspected of responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials; the human rights of the victims of such attacks must also be respected and fulfilled.
“Amnesty International Philippines is concerned that the hastily enacted Anti-Terrorism Act is being used as an excuse to violate human rights. The government should ensure that all measures taken against non-state actors fully comply with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law and that the Anti-Terrorism Act does not lead to further human rights abuses.”
Shortly after the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act, violence in Surigao del Sur has been on a steady rise with the recent killing of two young individuals from the Manobo Tribe in Madrid, Surigao del Sur.
According to reports received by Amnesty International Philippines, indigenous peoples’ communities have constantly been living in fear for their safety due to the escalating campaign against the New People’s Army in their area. The military’s counter-insurgency measures have caused panic and distress to the residents of Madrid, Tandag and other communities. Some have fled from their homes as most of their livelihoods have been affected by military operations.