Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tribesman sheds light on ‘Kalinga massacre’

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Tribesman sheds light on ‘Kalinga massacre’


1 July 2007. Breakfast is being prepared. As usual, people are farming, gardening and just trying to earn a living. It was 7:30 in the morning June 25 when all of a sudden residents saw people in white shirts backed by policemen who are armed with M203 rifles and B150 machine gun.

After surrounding the area, the demolition team torched two huts and that triggers the explosion of gasoline inside the house that led to a ‘massacre’ in Sitio Malapiat, Brgy. San Pascual, Rizal, Kalinga.

“May baril sila!” a policeman shouted while firing shots that wounded fellow policemen. In terror, residents fled everywhere and hide. But contrary to what police thought, the residents don’t have guns.

“Hindi kami lalaban,” a resident said as he surfaces. A police handcuffed the man then shot him dead. With the presence of Rizal Mayor Marcelo dela Cruz, policemen open fired at a house where Abok Tayaan and his wife were hiding. Shanties had been razed to the ground. When the smoke cleared, at least nine people lay dead including the Tayaan couple. At least 50 residents were wounded. The policemen were reinforced by a group of soldiers.

This is the real story, according to Solomon Inaw, a local tribesman. About 300 meters away from the bloody scene, Inaw stayed safe in a hut together with a woman, a child and an old man.

Residents started building huts in the area in 1986. Tribesmen claimed it was their ancestral land until the family of Vicente Madrigal came and turned it into hacienda. Tribesmen went to courts to fight for ownership of the land. It was declared public land by the Supreme Court in 2003. However, under the government’s land reform program, the disputed land is also being claimed by farmers who come from other provinces and who used to work with the Madrigal family.

After the first demolition in 2004, tribesmen went to Tabuk Regional Trial Court. Failing to secure a court order, Mayor dela Cruz asked the Sangguniang Bayan to make a resolution that will evict the residents. “Syempre yung lupa na iyan talagang fertile kaya gusto nilang okupaduhin. Tapos ang ginawa nila hindi pumunta sa korte kasi matatalo sila. Hindi makuha sa legal na paraan kaya gumamit ng karahasan at yung power niya sa pagka-Mayor,” Inaw said.

As of June 30, the dead who belongs to different tribes were already buried. Charges will also be filed against the policemen and the town mayor. “Maghihintay kami sa Korte at itatatag namin yung dokumento na talagang pag-aari namin itong lupa na ito,” Inaw added.

The Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working to promote and protect the right to adequate housing, expressed sadness over the incident and called on the government to order an impartial and independent inquiry into the violence and promptly make the findings public. “Ensure that all officials, government agencies and police personnel who are responsible for human rights violations, including the excessive use of force, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, are prosecuted,” the UPA said in a statement.

UPA also asked to immediately cease all forced evictions and comply with treaty obligations incumbent upon the Philippines to submit a report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the Philippine government has not done since 1995. -30-

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