Living in the Shadows

Another study of Balay, this time in collaboration with the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) has been published. The study looks at the phenomenon of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and armed conflict in NPA areas. You can download the research using the link at the end of this page. Below is a brief description of the research.

In recent years, much of the attention paid to internal displacement in Mindanao has focused on central and Western Mindanao. This displacement is primarily the result of prolonged conflict between Muslim rebels groups – in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and the government. The conflict, often described as a contestation between groups of indigenous people, known as the Bangsamoro, and non-native newcomers to the region, has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people in the last four decades and displaced millions. Progress towards a final resolution of this conflict appears on track.

However, no comparable progress has been made towards ending the 46-year old conflict between the government and the New People's Army (NPA) the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Peace talks continue to be mired by half-hearted efforts on both sides and a perception that neither party is willing to make concessions. The government's security forces and the NPA continue to clash regularly, in particular in Eastern and Northern Mindanao where the conflict exacts a heavy toll on the mainly indigenous civilian population. Unlike the Bangsamoro conflict, the NPA insurgency attracts little attention, despite being one of the longest running conflicts in the world and despite its ongoing impact on the civilian population. This is partly due to the fact that most of the violence and most of the suffering caused to civilians, including regular displacements, take place in remote areas and remain under-reported. The armed conflict is not the only displacement threat indigenous people in Mindanao – commonly referred to as Lumad – are exposed to. Their land and human rights are also under attack as outsiders seek to exploit their abundant natural resources: Mindanao is thought to hold the country's largest reserves of nickel, copper and gold.Resistance to natural resource extraction projects is sometimes met with violence. Many indigenous people are forcibly evicted, particularly those who lack ancestral land titles or other proof of ownership of land and resources. Tension and conflict over land access and management add another dimension to the violence and may be fuelling the armed conflict and increasing NPA recruitments.

Natural disasters, in particular flooding, are another major and frequent cause of displacement in the region. On 4 December 2012, Typhoon Bopha (locally referred to as Pablo) struck Mindanao, forcing close to a million of the 6.2 million people impacted to evacuate their homes. The typhoon's high wind speed and flooding caused extensive damage, with over 235,000 homes destroyed or damaged and further destruction of public infrastructure. The eastern part of the island bore the brunt of the casualties and damage, with indigenous communities particularly affected. As elsewhere in Mindanao, deforestation due to logging, mining, and the extensive cultivation of banana plantations in mountainous areas increased poor communities' vulnerability to flash floods and landslides. Even before their displacement most Lumad people, including former IDPs studied in this report, lived in remote,poor and marginalised areas where the unstable security situation has been hampering development efforts. As a result many Lumad communities struggle to cope with the economic and social consequences of their repeated displacement. They are unable to build up any assets that would sustain them in times of crisis and remain in a constant state of alarm and uncertainty about their futures.

The right of indigenous people not to be displaced from their land is guaranteed by Filipino law, in particular the 1997 Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA), and also by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an accord signed by the government and the NPA in 1998. As long as counter-insurgency operations continue to target indigenous communities and IPRA and CARHRIHL are not effectively enforced, these communities will continue to be locked in a cycle of regular displacement to escape conflict and violence.

In this report IDMC aims to assess the impact of multiple displacements caused by the government-NPA conflict on Lumad communities in eastern Mindanao, identify the main obstacles to sustainable return and recovery and make policy recommendations to address these. The study also sought to assess the extent to which communities previously affected by the conflict are more vulnerable to the effects of the disaster as a result of previous loss of assets and physical isolation and socio- economic marginalisation.

Violence Report in Bagong Silang

It is our pleasure to announce that the study on violence in our project site in Bagong Silang is now online. The research is a collaboration between DIGNTY/RCT and Balay. You may download the article using the link at the bottom of the page. Below is a brief introduction of the research report.

During the latter part of Marcos regime, Bagong Silang [New Birth] was established as a relocation site for the thousands of squatters about to be dislocated from their homes around metro—Manila to clear land for economic development, roads or otherwise. Some were forcibly moved to Bagong Silang, which is located far away from main economic activity. Others saw life in Bagong Silang as the possibility for a new beginning. Many of the areas from where the resettled people came were quite violent. Inter-personal violence occurred on a regular basis and crime rates were said to be high. Furthermore, state violence in different forms was also rumoured to be high, as was the violence perpetrated by land owners in order to persuade people to move from the contested land. None of these forms of violence disappeared with the establishment of Bagong Silang. From these initial days of violence, Bagong Silang has maintained a reputation of being a violent and dangerous place with high crime rates, gangs and fraternities are stable elements in the social life in Bagong Silang, as is state or state—endorsed violence, although, as we shall see, at a lower level and nature of violence in Bagong Silang and most accounts remain anecdotal or build on hearsay or stereotypes of the poor and the different. This report attempts to address this lack of knowledge. It is based on several different sets of data: a victimization survey, a database of all reports made to the local adjudicating body [Katarungang Pambarangay], interviews with residents and law enforcement agencies as well as ethnographic observations. The central part of the data set is the victimization survey, the rest of the data is used to understand and explain the results of the survey. The survey explores (1) the nature and extent of violence in Bagong Silang, (2) the emotional, physical and material impact violence have on people's lives and (3) what victims of crime and violence do to seek redress. On the basis of the results from the survey, the report explores two issues in depth – inter-personal violence in communities and state-perpetrated violence. The results from the victimization survey are presented in Chapter 3, whereas Chapter 4 explores interpersonal violence and its relation to notions of community and Chapter 5 explores state violence. In Chapter 6, we outline some of the possible consequences the conclusions of the report have for Balay's intervention in Bagong Silang.

Through this study, we aim to establish better understanding of the nature and extent of interpersonal, communal and state violence in Bagong Silang in order to provide an evidence—based foundation for interventions. Balay Rehabilitation Center, lnc in Manila and DIGNITY — Danish Institute against Torture in Copenhagen have been involved in an intervention project in Bagong Silang since 2007. The project focuses on young people in conflict with the law. It offers psycho—social and legal services to victims of state violence. It also aims to prevent state violence by addressing the structural conditions that put young people at risk of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the state and a life of criminality and violence.

Education Department Awards Balay for its Psychosocial and Education-in-Emergency Activities for Typhoon Pablo Survivors

The Department of Education (DepEd) has awarded Balay a certificate of recognition for its psychosocial response and risk reduction activities for school children who have survived the destruction brought about by Typhoon Pablo ('Bopha") last December 2012. In a ceremony held at the Bulwagan ng Karunungan (Hall of Knowledge) of the Department on July 19, 2013, Education Secretary Armin Luistro expressed appreciation to Balay and to their other partners for "helping communities rebuild schools and equip children" so they can resume their normal lives and reduce their vulnerabilities from disastrous events in the future.

Balay mounted its disaster response project in the typhoon-ravaged areas in Monkayo in Compostla Valley and in Trento, Agusan del Sur at the start of the year in collaboration with the Education Cluster, headed by the DepEd, and Unicef with the assistance from AusAid and the Japanese Government. The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) also provided support. It entails, among others, the construction of 18 temporary school houses to serve as 'safe space for learning of around 1,000 learners, the provision of psychosocial support for distressed children and adults, the training of teachers and Barangay Councils on disaster risk reduction (DRR), and the integration of DRR and concepts and preparedness practices into the regular lesson plans of teachers.

Over the last six months, Balay's disaster response team has provided psychosocial support to more than 6,500 children in ten disaster-stricken communities and seventeen schools in its project sites. Of this number, 51% are boys and 49% are girls. Adults who benefitted from the activities count to more than 1,130, some of whom are connected with the Barangay Council as community health and nutrition workers, disaster response volunteers, and members of the Parents-Teachers Association. Some of those adult partners later on participated in the construction of safe learning spaces (SLS) and volunteered to repair the damaged portions of the schools and clear waterways that were blocked by debris. Others lend a hand in preparing for the food for the feeding program of the schools and the social welfare department.

A total of 117 teachers from Trento and Monkayo also participated in an inter-active sharing-and-learning activity about Education-in-Emergency and DRR organized by Balay. The participants learned about basic concepts on disaster, including ideas about hazards, capacities and vulnerabilities. Fundamental concepts and framework on Education in Emergency were introduced. The resource persons also discussed the psychosocial impact of disaster on children and adults and workshops on basic counseling skills, hazard mapping, preparedness planning were done. The outputs of the workshops were a school-community hazard map and a risk-sensitive inputs to the school improvement plans of the partners schools.

Upon their return to their respective communities, the teachers initiated a parents-teachers assembly to bring together members of the Barangay Council and villagers to discuss DRR issues for the children. They presented their action plans to the community and asked for closer school-barangay interface to reduce the risk of disaster on the children.

Before the end of July, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (DRRMC) in 15 barangays covered by the Balay project would have been revitalized. They will include as members the more than 100 barangay officials and teachers who participated in the on-going DRR seminar to promote a school-community collaborative continuum to promote good governance and accountability in managing hazards and other security risks to the children and other vulnerable population.

Make Philippines Torture Free Zone

On its seventh year, as it marks the June 26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, members of the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines and various anti-torture advocates runs in the "Basta! Run Against Torture 7" (BRAT VII) to call on the government to make the Philippines a Torture Free Zone.

To make the Philippines a torture free zone, the UATC said "among others we need to ensure that all authorities including jail staff are fully aware of the Anti-Torture Law that reported violations will not be tolerated and will be investigated, and that perpetrators will be prosecuted."

"While we laud the government on the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law (Republic Act No. 9745) in November 2009, but it has so far been implemented without diligence and effectiveness since many torture allegations have not been effectively investigated by authorities and detainees who are in custody do not have immediate access to legal and medical services," Ernesto Anasarias, Executive Director of Balay Rehabilitation Center and UATC spokesperson said.

While noting that many agencies have a mandate to investigate complaints of torture and ill-treatment, the UATC is concerned at the high number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, the limited number of investigations carried out by the government in such cases, and the very limited number of convictions in those cases which are investigated.

The group reiterates its concerns on the increasing complaints in relation to the implementation of the Anti-Torture Law which has revealed various different deficiencies from documentation, investigation to prosecution of torture cases, which embolden perpetrators in doing acts of torture.

"The authorities' partiality not to comply with the Anti-Torture Law runs in the 'institutional impunity' we have right now. Take the recent case where Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim including a senior police officer, interrogated a rape suspect in full view of the public, as Mayor Lim extracted a confession and forced the suspect to admit he had raped a woman, clearly violated the Anti-Torture Law," Max de Mesa, Chairperson of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) claimed.

The group underscored the necessity that for the government to make the Philippines a torture free zone, it should publicly announce a clear policy of "total elimination" of all acts of torture.

The UATC-Philippines is led by Amnesty International-Philippines, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Medical Action Group (MAG) and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). Other human rights groups also joined the run like PAHRA and Organisation Mondiale Contra la Torture (OMCT) or World Organization Against Torture.-end

Balay's Disaster Response

Balay's disaster response has covered more than 3,300 school children in 10 barangays in Monkayo and Trento. The schools reached by our activities are the following: 17 elementary schools, 2 high schools, and 22 daycare centers. Our partner teachers, including the daycare workers, count to 186. We have already conducted 34 psychosocial support sessions in all covered schools alongside supplemental feeding. The number of adults who benefited from the same activities are almost 1,000. We have also distributed almost 100 tarpaulins in our partner schools which they used for their temporary learning spaces, or to cover their classrooms whose roofing were blown away.

Teachers we interviewed said that the feeding and psychosocial activities have encouraged children to go back to school. Attendance rate that we have monitored stands at around 82-85%. This is remarkably high considering the devastation suffered by the affected communities. However, we also noted that older children have not been consistently going to school as they are compelled to work in "birada" or hauling of fallen logs to generate income for their families. Some have engaged in gold panning or "tiktik ginto," a form of tunneling to extract precious metals for a living.

Prior to our intervention, teachers said many children are unusually 'pasaway' and 'matigas ang ulo.' Most are restless, and have a very short attention span in class. Anxiety also runs high among them. Incidence of conflicts have also been notable between children, according to teachers. All this are apparently attention-seeking behaviors that are often observed among children in distressful condition. Our play and art activities have provided a therapeutic opportunity for the children to come to dispel their negative thoughts and emotions associated with their traumatic experience. As a result, they obtained some psychological relief and have somehow gained a certain understanding about their extreme experience with the knowledge that the 'situation is under control' and that they can trust the people around them as they have the same experiences and that they are being cared for. The psychosocial activities have helped to lift their sense of isolation and uncertainty which result to the recovery of their cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills.

As our sessions also introduced basic concepts on disasters and preparedness, the children are now more aware what to do to reduce the risk of suffering when a calamity strikes. This includes listening to radio, and helping to pack clothing, food, toys, records, flashlight and learn when to seek refuge with adults as preparedness measures.

In some barangays, we have suggested that they put premium on disaster monitoring and preparedness and consider relocation sites for households along hazardous areas. Such as along the river or in landslide prone places.

Our team collaborates with the Department of Education and the DSWD. They join occasional inter-agency meetings convened by international humanitarian agencies as well. Reports shared by DepEd contacts indicate that most international organizations are concentrating on the same areas, especially those that have been widely reported in the media. They say that it results to uneven distribution of services to the affected population. As far as we know, Balay is one of a handful of national NGOs that operate in Trento. In Monkayo, it appears that Balay is the only NGO that sustained its services in some of the schools and communities that we covered. Despite our limited resources, we figured that we may have actually covered around 25% of the elementary schools in that municipality.