1st Visayas-wide Lakbayan will highlight hunger and militarization

PANAY ISLAND – The first Visayas-wide Lakbayan of various sectors and organizations, mostly Yolanda survivors, aims to address the Duterte administration of their plight despite the rhetoric and promises of the president. The Lakbayan will culminate on Saturday, December 10 at the National Capitol Region in time with the international human rights day as declared by the United Nations.

Led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Panay and Yolanda survivors’ alliance Kusog sang Pumuluyo, the Lakbayanistas aim to have a dialogue mainly with President Duterte, and to the following departments of National Defense (DND), Agricultural (DA) and Agrarian Reform (DAR), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Education (DepEd), and the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

According to Bayan Panay chairperson Cris Chavez, the Lakbayanistas are composed of about 700 individuals and will come from the four major Visayas regions – Central, Eastern, and Western Visayas and the Negros Island.

“From Western Visayas main island Panay, about 200 people will join the Lakbayan which are mostly Yolanda survivors and farmers that are continually facing the hunger and threats from unceasing military operations despite the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the president,” Chavez added.

“This year’s Lakbayan, the 3rd after the two Lakbayans from Mindanao in 2015 and in mid-2016, will highlight the suffering from hunger and militarization of the Visayan people,” he said.

Elusive justice for Yolanda victims
“More than three years after super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the islands in Visayas, survivors are still crying for justice and calling for help from the government in order to uplift their dire situation,” Chavez stressed.

According to DSWD central office data, about 200,000 Yolanda survivors have not yet received their Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA), of which 83,228 families are from Panay.

“This is because of the criminal negligence of the previous Aquino administration and its social welfare head Dinky Soliman. Both Aquino and Soliman should be prosecuted by corrupting the fund amounting to P11-14 billion,” said Chavez citing the report of the Commission on Audit.

“The budget of P1.17 billion intended to the Yolanda survivors was also denied by the Department of Budget and Management,” added the group’s leader.

“These funds could have been enough for the ESA and the initial livelihood program of survivors that have been neglected by the government.”

Intensified militarization and ceasefire violations
Still coping and struggling to overcome the impact of Yolanda, victims claimed of facing threats of militarization due to the continuing implementation of Operation Plan (Oplan) Bayanihan. Oplan Bayanihan was started under previous Aquino regime and still being continued by the Duterte administration, despite its declaration of unilateral ceasefire against the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“In the hinterlands of Central, Eastern, and Southern Panay and in Roxas City, military troops continue to maneuver under the guise of peace and development teams (PDT) and combat patrols operations. People’s organizations and their leaders are still being targets of surveillance, harassment and intimidation,” Chavez said.

Report from indigenous people’s Tumandoks said that their mini-market in Brgy. Katipunan, Tapaz, Capiz is used as barracks by the military. In Brgy. Bagongbong, Lambunao last month, around 30 elements of the 61st IB/PA camped inside the barangay hall.

In Roxas City, beneficiaries of 4Ps from Culasi complained that they cannot use anymore their barangay hall because elements of the 3rd ID are camping inside. Meanwhile in Brgy. Dinginan, military units of the 47th IB are patrolling the area in the afternoon and early morning.

Farmers from Bungsuan, Dumarao, where the disputed 120 hectares stock farm is located, reported that about 40 elements of the combined forces of the 47th, 61st, 14th, and 79th IB were deployed last October.

Deployment, surveillance and PDT operations are also rampant in Tubungan, Iloilo and in Cabladan, Sibalom and Osorio II in San Remegio in Antique according to reports from farmers.

“These activities clearly violates the ceasefire declaration and points directly to the armed forces as saboteurs of the peace process,” Chavez said.

“Apart from the Lakbayan, local mass actions and mobilizations will still be held in urban centers of Iloilo City, Roxas and Kalibo with 13,000 Panayanons are expected to join the rallies,” Chavez continued. (John Ian S. Alenciaga | panaytoday.net)


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