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Philippines: ‘Save Bondoc Peninsula’ Campaign

Human rights advocates and various people’s organizations are using the internet to expose massive rights violation in Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon in northern Philippines. In particular, they are demanding the immediate removal of military troops in the province.

Gathered together under the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, various groups conducted a Peace Caravan and Mercy Mission in the Bondoc Peninsula from June 25 to July 2 to document human rights abuses and to give relief operations, medical and psychosocial assistance, among others.

The Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement has put up the blog savebondocpeninsula.wordpress.com and also maintains online presence in social network site Facebook to disseminate updates about these efforts.

The poster reads: Oust the Fascist Military in Quezon Province. Stop human rights violations.

Starting March of this year, intense military operations have been conducted by government forces in Bondoc Peninsula where eight battalions (roughly 4,000 troops) of the Philippine Army are deployed in little more than twenty two towns.

Human rights advocates have observed that such heavy concentration of troops “is unheard of in the province even during the dark years of Martial Law” under the Marcos military dictatorship.

According to activists, Bondoc Peninsula immediately became the site of a string of enforced disappearances, intimidation, harassment and illegal detention of civilians, indiscriminate bombings and strafing of civilian communities, traumatization of children.

One of the more curious cases involves the case of youth activist Franklin Barrera, Jr. who was abducted and tortured by alleged military agents on June 7. He escaped a day later and was able to recount his ordeals to human rights alliance Karapatan.

But Barrera was abducted again on June 10 only to be surfaced and was presented to the mass media by the military’s 85th Infrantry Battalion. Barrera recanted his previous revelations and instead claimed that he himself and his fellow activists are all communist rebels. This is a video of his statement before his second abduction:

The week-long caravan and mercy mission itself became a target of military harassment. According to the organizers, army check points and nail spikes strewn on the road delayed the caravan’s convoy while the residents of Bondoc Peninsula were warned by military men against joining the mission.

Human rights groups said that like previous counterinsurgency plans, the Noynoy Aquino administration’s Oplan Bayanihan still make no distinctions between civilian dissenters and armed rebels. Instead of ensuring peace and development, military units illegally deployed in civilian communities commit various abuses.

According to the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, the intense militarization of the province can be attributed to the area’s being rich in mineral resources and its being Quezon’s agricultural center.

Thousands of hectares of land are hideously concentrated in the hands of a few landlords most especially in the towns of San Francisco, San Andres, San Narciso and Mulanay, leaving most land tillers landless and at the mercy of prominent land owners.

The towns Tagkawayan, Buenavista and San Andres on the other hand have very rich deposits of gold and other minerals.

Projects of both public and private sectors are focused in South Quezon and Bondoc Peninsula. Some of these are bio-diesel plant in the town of Gumaca, Mirant powerplant Extension in Pagbilao, Ogdel Bechtel Coal Fire Thermal Powerplant Extension in Atimonan, and the construction of a big dam in Macalelon.

Massive military presence is said to be a measure aimed at quelling peasant unrest against landlord and big business interests in the area.

The military has denied that it's violating human rights in the province. It said that its presence in rural communities is important to preserve peace and order and to prevent rebels from spreading violence and committing crimes. The Philippines is facing one of the longest communist insurgencies in the world.

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