"Rebels and troops violated rights"

MILF rebels patrol a highway in North Cotabato Province in Mindanao
(Jason Gutierrez/IRIN)

Members of the Philippines military, as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have carried out large-scale human rights abuses, Amnesty International (AI) alleges.



Over the past year, about 750,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, and while many have returned to their ruined villages, up to 240,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are "still vulnerable to abuses", AI states in Philippines: Shattered lives, beyond the 2008-2009 Mindanao Armed Conflict, released on 25 August.



"There really is so much anxiety and insecurity on Mindanao island. We call this a human rights crisis," Amnesty section head for the Philippines, Aurora Parong, told IRIN in Manila.



Both the MILF and members of the Philippine Army have been blamed for torching civilian houses, forcing tens of thousands to "live in fear and uncertainty in overcrowded camps, with their relatives or in makeshift shelters on roadsides".



"For many large families, the food rations are not enough and family members have been forced to go back to their villages to forage for food or something to sell, risking their lives in the process," the report states, noting that aid agencies have also been discouraged by the government from doling out large quantities of food to avoid it "being diverted to the hands of the MILF or sold to traders".



Compounding matters is a large number of unlicensed firearms on the island and deadly feuds between rival politicians and clans that have at times also involved members of the MILF or the military, Parong said.













Norodin Benito and his family fled to the Sambulawan evacuation centre in Mindanao following a resumption of hostilities between government forces and the MILF

David Swanson/IRIN
Norodin Benito and his family fled to the Sambulawan evacuation centre in Mindanao following a resumption of hostilities between government forces and the MILF
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Clan violence could undermine humanitarian work - aid officials
Norodin Benito and his family fled to the Sambulawan evacuation centre in Mindanao following a resumption of hostilities between government forces and the MILF


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Norodin Benito and his family fled to the Sambulawan evacuation centre in Mindanao following a resumption of hostilities between government forces and the MILF. Hundreds of thousands have fled over the course of the past year alone

"Disappearances"




Among the most serious findings was "an alarming number" of forced disappearances targeting civilians returning to their ruined hamlets to salvage crops and vegetables, she said.



"There is data on cases of torture and extra-judicial killing of people outside IDP camps who were internally displaced. This occurs when they go back to their homes and are accosted by troops as MILF suspects," Parong said.



"This is a very alarming situation. The branding of IDPs as MILF reserves is very, very alarming and we call on the Philippine government to refrain from that because this would encourage attacks on IDPs," Parong said.



The report included a sworn statement of the wife of Mansur Salih, 32, a tricycle driver, who was among 10 men arrested by troops without a warrant in the town of Sultan Kudarat in January. His wife, then nine months pregnant, said the troops came in trucks and tanks and took the men away.



"They shouted at me, asked me to lie on the ground, and I complied. A few minutes later, I smelled something burning, so I stood up to check on our rice pot, but one of them followed me and when I bent down to put the fire out, he kicked me in my side, near my hip," the wife said in the report. "I fell down. When I looked up at the soldier, he just laughed at me. I was visibly pregnant, but he kicked me anyway."



The other men were allegedly freed the next day, but Mansur was held for 10 weeks and released only after allegedly being tortured into confessing to crimes he had not committed.












Jolo, Philippines - Troops scour a section of Jolo's jungle area against Musilm Abu Sayyaf militants in this file picture taken last year. The Abu Sayyaf had agreed to free one of three ICRC staff it kidnapped in January after deadly clashes with troops l

Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
Jolo, Philippines - Troops scour a section of Jolo's jungle area against Musilm Abu Sayyaf militants in this file picture taken last year. The Abu Sayyaf had agreed to free one of three ICRC staff it kidnapped in January after deadly clashes with troops l...
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Insecurity jeopardises aid work
Jolo, Philippines - Troops scour a section of Jolo's jungle area against Musilm Abu Sayyaf militants in this file picture taken last year. The Abu Sayyaf had agreed to free one of three ICRC staff it kidnapped in January after deadly clashes with troops l...


Photo: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
Members of the Philippine military are also alledgedly guilty of carrying out large scale human rights abuses, says Amnesty

MILF accused



The 12,000-strong MILF, which has been fighting for an ancestral homeland for decades, is blamed for torching communities, as well as shelling military detachments near IDP camps that have in some cases led to civilian casualties.



MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said he had not read the report but denied the MILF was violating rights. He acknowledged, however, that some rebels may have acted alone, without sanction from the group's central committee.



"But we have our way of dealing with them. It is not our policy to attack civilians, we are largely victims of this war," he said.



Military spokesman Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan told IRIN the army was evaluating the report, and vowed that any soldier found to have violated certain laws would be brought to book.



He said, however, figures cited by AI contradicted official government reports, including the number of current IDPs, which he placed at only "130,000 and continuing to go down".



President Gloria Arroyo's chief aide, Eduardo Ermita, said the government was not aware of any specific case, but said soldiers had been told to "continue preserving the integrity of the republic and our laws. This situation is being addressed. We are going by our mandate to ensure the protection of human rights."



Parong said AI hoped both sides would live up to unilateral ceasefires announced earlier this month, but this had not yet led to a drop in violence or rights violations.



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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