Solon urges Palace to certify bill to protect internal refugees

Solon urges Palace to certify bill to protect internal refugees
BY JOHANNA CAMILLE SISANTE, GMANews.TV
08/13/2008 | 11:24 PM
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MANILA, Philippines – Following the displacement of over 160,000 people due to the fighting between military forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a congressman urged Malacanang to certify as urgent a House bill banning arbitrary internal displacement.

House human rights committee chair Lorenzo Tanada III called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to classify as urgent the committee-approved Internal Displacement Act of 2008 during a legislative forum on international humanitarian law on Tuesday, a statement released on Wednesday said.

Prohibited acts as stated in the bill includes arbitrary internal displacement committed under the following conditions: based on policies of apartheid; in cases of large-scale development projects not justified by overriding public interest; as collective punishment; and in situations of armed conflict.

Tanada’s call for the bill’s immediate passage came amid the massive displacement of North Cotabatoans due to military-MILF skirmishes in the province.

“Some 100,000 civilians have been internally-displaced, their homes and properties destroyed by the OV-10s, MG-50s and SF-260s launched by PAF planes which bombed these areas,” said Tanada.

The bill seeks the provision of monetary compensation, including immediate relief and practical assistance, to affected victims in case internal displacement is inevitable. It also ensures the victims’ safe resettlement and rehabilitation of their homes.

The bill also aims to prohibit other coercive acts directed against a civilian population or contrary to law, good morals, public order, and public policy.

A penalty of reclusion temporal or imprisonment upon authorities and individuals who commit or help commit violations is proposed in the bill.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said as of Wednesday afternoon, 80,000 individuals displaced by fighting in North Cotabato have already returned to their homes, which are mostly in Libungan, Pigkawayan, and Midsayap towns.

Teodoro said some of the evacuees reported looting incidents allegedly perpetrated by MILF members that occupied their communities. – GMANews.TV

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