By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed alarm over the recent attack against an indigenous community in Kapalong, Davao Del Norte by alleged members of the New People’s Army despite the onslaught of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The reported attack took place early morning of March 24 in the remote village of Sitio Tapayanon, Barangay Gupitan of the town.
CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that the Commission denounces that act of “deliberate violence” by the armed group. She stressed that the protection of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples (IPs) in times of armed conflict and prohibition have been established under R.A. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act and R.A. 9851, otherwise known as the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.
“As such, we condemn the violence given that, considering the present COVID-19 pandemic, atrocities further push indigenous people into vulnerability,” said de Guia.
She even called on both the government and New People’s Army to agree on a genuine ceasefire in those communities in order to create a “more durable and permanent solution to armed conflict on the ground.”
De Guia likewise lauded the previous efforts made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to look into the needs of Sitio Tapayanon. These include civil registration, malnutrition, basic education, health concerns of the elderly and children, registration of IPs political structure, inclusion of ancestral domain, and hygiene and sanitation.