Posted by: kawagib | February 20, 2008

Moro Human Rights group slams MOU of Balikatan in Lanao del Sur

Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization raised criticism on the Memorandum of Understanding signed by police, military officials and local officials in Lanao del Sur says that it is not an assurance that human rights violations will not occur with the holding of Balikatan exercises. 

“We criticize the agreement, specifically the provision that restricts groups from conducting rallies or other activities construed as obstructing the conduct of the humanitarian activities,” said Sittie Rajabia Sundang, secretary-general of Kawagib Moro Human Rights. 

Sundang says that freedom of expression of Lanao residents and peace advocates who are against the holding of  Balikatan Exercises and the presence of US soldiers in their communities should be upheld and respected by the local leaders in Lanao del Sur. 

Sundang also says that protests against Balikatan exercises will continue despite of the agreement because trails of human rights violations have followed each Balikatan exercises in Moro communities. 

Previous US-RP joint military exercises showed US soldiers being involved in both medical missions and combat missions such as case of Sgt. Reggie Lane , a US soldier accused of leading a combat mission in Tuburan, Basilan who shot and wounded a Moro resident in July 27, 2002.  

Sgt Lane brought Buyung-Buyung Isnijal to the local hospital and was identified by the doctor who treated Isnijal who saw him participating in the medical missions in Lamitan and Tuburan during the six-month long Balikatan program in Basilan. 

Incidents such as this does not allay our fear that the primary purpose of balikatan exercises is combat training while the civic activities such as medical, dental and engineering missions are the sweeteners for the community to accept the presence of US soldiers in Moro areas. 

According to Sundang, the presence of 47 US soldiers including the local police and Filipino troops is still an added deployment of military troops in Moro areas that they tagged as havens of terrorists.  

Sundang believes that the reason US soldiers chose Moro communities such as Lanao del Sur as the venue of  their Balikatan exercises, whether humanitarian or military exercises of nature, is because they believed that terrorists reside in our communities and that their primary  mission is to eliminate these terrorists and their supporters.   

“If they really want peace to reign in Moro communities, the government should stop sending military troops in our areas, whether foreign of Filipino troops and stop making our communities as target practice,” said Sundang. 

Kawagib reiterates its calls for the investigation of reported cases of human rights  violation committed by US soldiers during Balikatan exercises and give justice to the victims. 


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