Legislator seeks relief of Army battalion

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PARTY-LIST Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan has asked the Armed Forces to withdraw the 41st Infantry Battalion and the 5th Infantry Division of the Army from Abra for allegedly committing human-rights violations and desecrating the remains of insurgents.

Ridon headed the National Solidarity Mission (NSM) that motored to Abra and investigated the effects of widespread militarization in the poor province.

The three-day NSM was organized by Karapatan, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Gabriela Women’s Party, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Salinlahi, Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights, Health Alliance for Democracy, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, National Union of Students in the Philippines, League of Filipino Students  and Anakbayan.

Ridon and NSM members went to Lacub, Abra, since Monday and returned to Manila on Wednesday.

“I have seen for myself what the continuing military operations have done to the tribal communities in Lacub, Abra. Farmers and workers are hindered by fear from continuing with their economic activities. Agricultural production has ground to a halt, as well as small-scale mining activities. The people of Lacub are going hungry because of the heavy military presence in the area,” Ridon said.

“Worse, there are reports from locals that the military is using civilians as human shield in counterinsurgency operations in remotest barrios of Lacub,” the lawmaker added.

Lacub residents allegedly told Ridon’s group that the military has forced several residents to serve as guides in exploring the mountains.          

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