CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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Duterte threatens to put tribal people in hamlets

MANILA (UCAN): Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, warned that he will place tribal people in “hamlets” to keep them from being influenced by communist rebels in a speech on December 18. 
 
“I will hamlet them. Why? Because if they remain scattered, they are really in danger,” Duterte said during a summit of village leaders in the southern region of Mindanao.
“I cannot get their loyalty if they are scattered because they are afraid to be far from each other,” the president said.
 
Duterte said the hamlets would be declared tribal territories that will be guarded by the tribal people themselves, although soldiers and policemen would be asked to secure the areas.
 
He said the plan would be implemented “throughout the Philippines” before the year’s end “so that (his critics) won’t invent stories.”
 
Duterte’s plan is reminiscent of the United States’ Strategic Hamlet Programme during the Vietnam War, aimed at combatting the communists’ influence over the rural population.
 
In the Philippines hamletting was among the human rights violations committed by former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, in the 1970s. It involves putting villagers in one place in an attempt to prevent contact with insurgents.
 
Duterte earlier announced that he would move tribal communities to temporary shelters as part of his counterinsurgency plan in Mindanao. 
 
“Now I will hamlet them,” he said on December 16. 
 
“You natives won’t be able to say that you’re being imprisoned. But I will make a secure place for you that will be your territory in the meantime,” he added.
 
Pya Macliing Malayao, secretary-general of tribal group, Katribu, said she was not surprised by Duterte’s announcement, especially after martial law in Mindanao was extended for another year.
 
“In the background of these attacks (on tribal communities) are big corporations and so-called development projects that are encroaching ancestral territories,” Malayao pointed out.
 
Duterte said that communists have always tried to control the tribes and arm them, which is why reviving the peace negotiations with the rebels would be “futile.”
 
Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels collapsed in 2017 after Duterte ordered the terminations of negotiations following rebel attacks on military camps.

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