Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo today called attention anew to the issue of citizens forced to evacuate their communities because of military operations.
Sec. Taguiwalo cited developments last July 11 when some 399 families have been reportedly forced to evacuate from their village in Caraga town, Davao Oriental when the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched an attack against alleged members of the New People’s Army that began Friday, July 8. Reports from the 67th Infantry Battalion (IB) have it that the families come from the different villages of Brgy. Pichon in Caraga town.
The 67th IB has also affirmed reports released by the media that it launched an airstrike against the NPA and dropped at least six rockets. The evacuees are now taking refuge with the Department of Social Welfare and Development office in Brgy. Poblacion, Caraga.
Sec. Taguiwalo said that monitoring and protecting the welfare of citizens affected by armed conflict falls under the mandate of the DSWD, specifically the welfare of children. The DSWD’s Protective Services Bureau follows protocol to aid children affected by armed conflict in line with Article X of Republic Act No. 7610 “An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination”. Article X, “Children in Situations of Armed Conflict” stipulates that children should be given priority during evacuation and that existing community organizations should look after the safety and well-being of children during evacuation operations and its immediate aftermath when they are in the evacuation centers.
“We want to ensure the DSWD’s more active involvement in the plight of citizens affected by military operations. Military operations have resulted in many forced evacuations of farmers and Lumad communities, and the needs of the evacuees have to be addressed. In so far as assistance of DSWD-FO XI is concerned, it distributed 1,300 foodpacks comprised of 5 kilos of rice and canned goods to the affected residents of Brgy. Pichon. It also continues to coordinate with Rep. Corazon Malanyaon on whether there is a need to augment the supplies for the evacuees,” she said.
Sec. Taguiwalo said that she has already brought up with Malacanang the matter of assisting displaced Lumad citizens displaced by armed conflict and military operations return to their ancestral communities.
“Pres. Duterte has been consistent in expressing his concern for the Lumad and other indigenous peoples who have been forced to flee their homes,” she said.
Finally, Sec. Taguiwalo also called for support for the peace talks between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and peace talks between the GRP, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“These peace negotiations should be supported because they will contribute to efforts to address the roots of armed conflict in the country,” she concluded.