This report covers the events that happened after February 16, 2007, which was covered by Bantay Ceasefire Report 002-02-07, which was a product of a five-day assessment mission.
The first mission on March 4 was triggered by Bantay Ceasefire volunteers’ report that said another wave of evacuation happened in Midsayap last March 2, 2007. This time, the evacuees went as far as 35 kilometers away in Datu Piang town of Maguindanao and affecting eight barangays. The succeeding missions were follow ups as things were happening so fast at the field.
Barely has all of over 7,000 evacuees of Midsayap town in Cotabato Province have gone back home when a chain of displacement was again reported, this time, expanding to other towns of Cotabato and some municipalities of Maguindanao.
But if the Midsayap case had been caused by skirmishes between government troopers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas, this time, the displacement is an offshoot of military pursuit operation against 52 inmates of the Cotabato Provincial Jail who escaped from prison last February 2, 2007. Aside from common criminals, authorities said that the escapees included MILF members who allegedly took refuge.
Around 1,235 families, or some 6,000 individuals from Barangays Rangaban, Mudseng, Tugal, Tumbras, Nes and Nabalawag in Midsayap, Cotabato have abandoned their homes and temporarily took shelter in schools, houses of relatives and other structures like turugan (meeting place) as a result of fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which started January 25, 2007.
Many families also stayed only under the trees along the highway connecting Midsayap and Datu Piang of Maguindanao. The exact number of evacuees could not be ascertained as many were considered “mobile evacuees” who had their sleds and tractors parked under the trees along the highway that served as their temporary shelters.
Among the 10-member countries of ASEAN, Burma is considered the most brutal to its own citizens. Its human rights record is unsurpassed in the region. Among its fellow ASEAN members, Burma is uncooperative. Its secretive regime, a military junta has ruled, or “misruled”, Burma for the past 43 years. The issue of Burma is no longer foreign in the eyes of many political analysts around the world. Its wanton trampling of human rights hog the headlines and sends chills to all democracy loving-people especially Filipinos who have ousted two corrupt and authoritarian governments through people power.
For the last three to five years, we have seen the international community’s unrelenting advocacy and campaign work aimed in attaining genuine political changes inside Burma. The campaign to block Burma from chairing the ASEAN this year was a major success. Various non-government organizations and people’s organizations in the region continue to picket Burmese embassies and hound their officials in their respective territories.
But despite of the pressures exerted by various human rights groups around the world, violations of human rights that include rape, arbitrary killings, forced labor, forced relocation and destruction of ethnic villages remained unchanged.
PRESIDENT Xanana Gusmao may have prophesied when he told fellow East Timorese four years ago that “raising our flag will not mean that malaria will suddenly disappear, or that domestic violence will suddenly end, or that we all will have enough food, education, electricity, roads, or jobs. We dreamed of independence, but now we dream of development and of being a developed nation.” Those words can never be more relevant at present as the world’s tiniest and youngest nation is thrust again into socio-political turmoil threatening to rip the fabric of the nation – this time from within not from without