Rights violations up in areas with most dev’t fund from NTF-ELCAC, watchdog says

Rights violations up in areas with most devât fund from NTF-ELCAC, watchdog says
File photo taken April 8, 2019 shows press conference in Cebu City held by the fact-finding team composed of peasants and human rights organizations.
Groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and Karapatan / released

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights violations increased in barangays that supposedly benefited from the anti-insurgency task force's Barangay Development Program, a human rights monitor said. 

This comes after the Department of the Interior and Local Government claimed in a separate press release that 99% or P16.24 billion of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict program was already released to local governments around the country. 

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año listed Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen and Caraga as the "top five regions which received the biggest allocation."

In a statement, human rights watchdog Karapatan pointed out that according to its tally, the same regions saw the most killings and political arrests since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term from 2016 to the present.

“The government’s so-called efforts to bring development to areas they claim as former conflict-ridden will not reach its aim as it brings more injustice than progress. If it really wants to end the decades-old conflict in the country, it should realize that it needs to cease from committing abuses and directing attacks against the Filipino people,” Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said.

“Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office until June 2021, 206 of the 409 cases of extrajudicial killings transpired in the five regions while 221 of the 487 political prisoners arrested under the Duterte administration were arrested in the same regions."

Progressive groups have long sounded the alarm on killings and arrests in those areas, saying they were meant to strike fear in indigenous peoples' communities opposing government projects that could displace them.

Earlier this year, police and social welfare personnel stormed a retreat house in the University of San Carlos in Cebu to "rescue" 21 Lumad children. Their teachers were detained for supposedly kidnapping and trafficking them, while police claimed the children were made to undergo "warfare training."

The Barangay Development Program, according to the DILG, aims “to bring development to former conflict-ridden areas” by funding infrastructure projects. 

Its total budget of P16.44-billion for the 822 barangays, which were formerly communist strongholds, is directly released to the Provincial or City Governments. 

"We will implement some 2,276 projects which will benefit our kababayans in the sitios and barrios that were formerly influenced by the Communist terrorists. These projects are tangible proof of the government’s desire to bring development to far-flung areas," Año said. 





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