Friday, June 29, 2012

JOB OPENING

The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) seeks candidates to the following positions under its Protection Monitoring and Legal Assistance Project funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

1. PROJECT ASSISTANT - The Project Assistant will provide administrative and project support to the Legal Aid Officer and the Protection Monitoring team based in the Cotabato City Headquarters.

SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS:
• College graduate
• excellent writing and communication skills;
• ability to handle large volume of work and have excellent organization skills;
• strong attention to detail
• ability to deal with time pressure and a demanding work environment;
• willingness to travel to remote parts of Mindanao
• excellent interpersonal skills, team worker;
• ability to take initiatives and be flexible and adaptable in a changing environment
• working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications
• working knowledge of any of the languages spoken in Mindanao considered an advantage;
• significant experience living and working in ARMM communities preferred but not required;
• prior work experience with public interest organisations focusing on human rights preferred but not required.

2. STAFF LAWYER / LEGAL AID OFFICER - The Staff Lawyer / Legal Aid Officer will be part of the MinHRAC quick response and legal aid team , in addition to serving as resource person on human rights and international humanitarian law trainings and orientation sessions.

In addition to the qualifications above, candidate for Lawyer position must be:

• willing to be based either in Cotabato City or Zamboanga City
• a member in good standing in the Philippine Bar
• preferably with 2 years’ litigation experience.

Interested applicants may send their resumes to mail@minhrac.org

Thursday, June 21, 2012

T’boli still face uncertainty, months after mosque burning

On September 1985, Lake Sebu, one of the most important watershed areas in the country, was proclaimed as a protected landscape. Lake Sebu is home to a number of indigenous peoples including the T’boli, known for their intricate weaving and exquisite brassware, who have lived in Lake Sebu for centuries.

Sadly, they are not protected as a people in the same way that the landscape of Lake Sebu is.

T’boli residents in Brgy. Luhib, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato face possible loss of land and property amidst threats to their safety, as suspects to the most recent burning of their mosque and homes are still at large. With subpoenas yet to be signed and served, preliminary investigations are still ongoing and the suspects are yet to answer to the victims’ formal complaint.

Junjun, Danny and Nognog Bañagados were sighted among the people present duting the Solidarity Caravan spearheaded by the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, to help the community rebuild their mosque. The Bañagados enjoy this freedom despite being the primary suspects behind the burning incident.

In a dialogue held last May 28, days after the Solidarity Caravan, the barangay captain of the said area expressed disapproval over the activities held MinHRAC and its legal assistance team, saying that the residents should have approached him instead. He also noted how the names of the suspect were not mentioned the first time residents brought their case to him, and how the Bañagados were only implicated during MinHRAC’s intial interviews with residents held days after the incident.

However, when the T’boli first approached their barangay captain, the latter paid no heed to his indigenous constituents. This prompted the residents to present their case and seek assistance from MinHRAC. In addition, a PNP dispatch together with the Surallah Bureau of Fire Protection first set foot on Luhib, only after MinHRAC requested that they join their fact-finding investigation regarding the burning incident.
In recent correspondences with the barangay captain, it has become apparent that he has close ties with the Bañagados and favors the said family, an affinity assumed to be because of their shared roots as Ilonggo settlers.

Since the burning incident, threats to the safety of the residents have been constant, albeit indirect. Residents have disclosed to MinHRAC that they have been warned to stay in their homes for their own safety. One of the most disturbing threats reported was how one of the Bañagados was allegedly overheard to have said “papaulanan namin kayo ng bala.

According to Sa’ang Kalan, one of the complainants against the Bañagados, has lived in Luhib for as long as he can remember and is the third generation descendant of his forefathers who lived in Brgy. Luhib before him. However, his peaceful settlement was interrupted when the Bañagados arrived and started claiming the land as their own.

Since then, he has lived with intimidation and harassment from the Bañagados, which eventually led to the shooting and death of his half-brother, Tinis. However, due to lack of corroborating evidence, no case has been filed to make the Bañagados accountable.

Plots of land surrounding the Luhib residents’ homes, including that of Kalan, have been cleared without their consent as if to prepare land for tilling. It has been two months since their mosque, along with their homes, has been burned down with impunity.

This is not the first time homes have been burned down in Luhib but, due to reasons yet to be disclosed to MinHRAC, this is the first time victims have filed a complaint. According to residents, this latest incident may be the fifth burning incident in recent memory.

On April 19, Sa’ang Kalan, one of the complainants, was awakened by the sound of crackling sound of burning wood and the smell of smoke only to discover that their mosque was being set on fire. He positively identifies Jun-jun Bañagado who was then holding a cigarette lighter while pouring an unknown accelerant from a bottle. Bañagado was seen with his brothers, Nognog and Danny, who both carried long firearms.
A land dispute is thought to be the cause of these incidents as the mosque and several adjacent homes are situated on a farm lot which the older Bañagado, Ernesto, claims as his. Flody, Kalan’s wife, has previously brought their land claim before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)but the commission has yet to act upon the said claim.

The three Bañagados who have been positively identified by Sa’ang Kalan are the sons of Ernesto.
Kalan lives in a house 2 to 3 meters away from the mosque, one that was partially burned during incident. Meanwhile, Kalan’s neighbor suffered a fate worse than his.

That same night, Nerissa Baluyan, whose partner partner was then working in a rice mill in Nurallah, South Cotabato, had no choice but to leave their house unattended as she looked after her sick mother. A little before midnight, she was awakened by someone shouting “Fire! Fire!” Rattled, she went out to check what the commotion was about, fearing the worst.

As she ran downhill to her burning home, she saw five men standing nearby. She then shouted “may tao!” after which four of the men ran away. It was then when she saw Jun-jun Bañagado cocking a gun in his hand. Again, Baluyan shouted “May tao! May tao!” which prompted Bañagado to flee the scene.
Baluyan’s home was burned to the ground. While Sa’ang Kalan promptly went to the police station the next morning, Baluyan chose to stay behind as she feared for her life.

In less than a week, the MinHRAC Quick Response Team went to the site of the incident in coordination with the Commission of Human Rights – Region XII, together with the Lake Sebu PNP and Surallah Bureau of Fire Protection to conduct a fact-finding investigation.    ###          


Note:
Pictures of the Lake Sebu Solidarity Caravan can be seen at the MinHRAC facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.432045140148375.102002.150412344978324&type=3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teduray, Maguindanaon renew ties in peace dialogue


The Teduray and Maguindanaon people have agreed upon creating a conflict management mechanism geared towards peaceful settlements between the two communities in South Upi, Maguindanao after a dialogue held last May 31. An estimated 100 participants attended and took part in coming up with amechanism for peaceful resolution of conflicts that have recently arisen, with the support of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

During the event, Timuay Jovito Martin, Regional Tribal Chieftain of the Teduray tribe, recounted the story of Apo Mamalo and Apo Tabunaway – two brothers who, despite choosing to follow different beliefs, remained the greatest of allies. The Teduray trace their lineage back to Apo Mamalo while the Maguindanaon share their bloodline with Apo Tabunaway.

This story serves as the foundation for the formation of a council consisting of tribal elders as a conflict management mechanism that will enable the Teduray and Maguindanaon to resolve disputes on the grassroots level and live together in mutual respect as their ancestors did.

Aside from the formation of a tribal council, a kanduli will be held come July as a testament to the newfound solidarity between the Teduray and Maguindanaon. Both also plan to work together on an advocacy campaign, in cooperation with other tribes in Central Mindanao, which focuses on the kinship between Apo Mamalo and Apo Tabunaway and is geared towards sustaining a similar relationship among the different tribes.

Timuay Martin also acknowledged the contributions of MinHRAC to their community in terms of human rights awareness and alleviation of tension caused by recent conflicts.


Two events are of note in relation to this peace dialogue. One is the disappearance of Rogelio Mundo, member of the Teduray tribe, while the other is the strafing of three Teduray homes, both of which happened in South Upi, Maguindanao. However, no cases have been filed due to lack of corroborating evidence and witnesses.

Mundo makes a living as a meat trader, and the reason for his disappearance is still unknown. Despite searches done through the joint-effort of the tribe leaders and several CAFGU members, together with incident reports to the Philippine National Police and the local government, Mundo still hasn’t been found.

Due to the alleged implication of a Maguindanaon who is the Mundo’s business partner, there has been tension between residents belonging to the two ethnic groups in the area. However with the intervention of the tribal leaders, the case has been reported to MinHRAC which then assisted them in engaging each other through a peace dialogue.

Regarding the strafing incident which happened last May 10, only assumptions have been made. Some say the houses were targeted by armed men because of the residents’ appointment as part of the Peace Council. The Peace Council is said to be an initiative by the Tri-people Organization Against Disaster Foundation (TRIPAD).

Inquiries about the deaths due to past and resolved conflicts made separately with the Teduray and Maguindanaon communities is said to have caused tension between the two groups, now believed to be the reason behind aggression. The inquiries provided the rationale for TRIPAD to form a Peace Council which is thought to be redundant with an already existing tribal council which is a part of their traditional justice system.

Despite the recently concluded peace dialogue, masked men have recently been sighted near the homes of those affected by the strafing. This prompted the affected families to request that the Kanduli be held as soon as possible, in order to ensure their safety.

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note: more photos on the Peace Dialogue can be found in our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MinHRAC.Official 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moving Forward

Nearly a year of hard work and sacrifice, the regular Secretariat Office of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) has become a reality.   But even before that, the Secretariat has been moving fast in institutionalizing the coordination of all human rights initiatives of its convenor NGOs.

New Address

MinHRAC recently moved to its new office at the 2-storey building beside Al-Borhan Mosque Compound, along Luna Street, Cotabato City. Since its incorporation on 2009 MinHRAC has been graciously hosted by the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum at the 2nd Floor of their Office along Gonzalo Javier Street in the same city.  Besides being grateful, the MinHRAC officers and staff shall fondly remember their days at the BWSF office.   

Web Presence and Email 

In order to reach out to its members, partner organizations, and the world MinHRAC established its web presence. It established the following accounts: Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and Facebook Page, and Posterous.
Aside from web prescence, MinHRAC now has its own institutional email address for its officers and institutions. You can reach all its officers at mail@minhrac.org.

IMT-CPC

MinHRAC is a member of the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team. A more detailed account of the CPC and MinHRAC membership can be read in the following links: MinHRAC Welcomes GRP-MILF Decision to Invite MinHRAC to IMT-CPC, GRP,MILF meet in Kuala Lumpur; sign 2 documents, and GRP and MILF Signs Declaration as Talks Come to a Close.

Office Inauguration

Right before the start of this year's Ramadhan, the MinHRAC Secretariat moved to its new office.  It now plans to hold its official inauguration to coincide with Eid'l Adha celebrations.  It hopes that the occasion will be a time for its partners and colleagues in human rights, humanitarian assistance, peace advocacy, and civilian protection to gather in a social and informal setting.