PHILIPPINES: Concern over heavy presence of foreign military forces in typhoon affected areas


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-031-2013
ISSUES: Military, State of emergency & martial law, Victims assistance & protection,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further information from local organizations who are involved in relief efforts in the Visayas. While relief and aid assistance from foreign countries are deeply appreciated, there are concerns over the heavy presence of its military forces, notably the US, which is believed to be disproportionate in responding to the affected areas.

The local groups in the area believe that the heavy presence of foreign military forces is disproportionate to what is only needed in response to the disaster. Some airport and port facilities have reportedly been in complete control of these forces, due to its massive deployment of warships and fighting jets, undermining the exercise of territorial jurisdiction by local authorities.

Furthermore, many of the coastal, far-flung areas have not received immediate relief and medical assistance despite the massive downpour of relief and aid assistance twelve days after the typhoon hit the islands.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

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November 19, 2013

We thank you and AHRC for responding to Karapatan’s urgent appeal for relief support for the victims of typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. Your solidarity and the efforts of people’s organizations and the Filipino masses here and abroad are proof of the timeless viability and the profound effectiveness of united people’s action.

This is in direct contrast to the criminal incompetence of the Aquino administration—from national to local agencies—in providing relevant, timely and comprehensive disaster preparedness capabilities and civilian intervention before, during, and after typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. The incompetence resulted to the massive loss of lives, homes and properties, sources of livelihood. The communities affected by the typhoon have long been known as among the poorest in the country.

With the typhoon and the disastrous disaster response of the government, the situation in these areas is worst, to say the least. Pres. BS Aquino has repeatedly shunned all criticisms on his government’s incompetence in addressing these issues, parrying them through relentless blame games, in a deliberate attempt to evade accountability.

What is more worrisome is the massive deployment of military troops in disaster areas—Philippines, US and those deployed by other foreign governments—in the guise of relief operations to undertake what is described as “militarization of disaster response.” The Office of the President released the following information on the activities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the disaster areas (source: 

• November 9, 2013: Tacloban City Airport was opened for military-grade aircraft. Two major supply/logistics hubs were identified and established by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Iloilo City and Roxas City to serve as staging area of relief efforts going to accessible barangays, while clearing operations are also on-going in isolated areas. In Panay Island, 845 personnel from said unit were deployed to conduct relief. Additionally, 250 reservists from the Army, Air Force, and Navy volunteered their time to assist in the ongoing operations in Panay. AFP helicopters were also brought to transport relief goods into Roxas City from Iloilo City; when the roads were cleared the Army used their trucks to keep the flow of goods and relief to barangays with open roads.

• November 10, 2013: Personnel from Office of Civil Defense were transported to Tacloban City. Two vessels of the Philippine Navy departed for Palawan and Tacloban containing more than 300,000 lbs of relief goods and other relief items. The AFP transported the PNP Special Action Force to conduct law enforcement because there was already lawlessness and looting incidents particularly in Tacloban.

• November 11, 2013: Aside from Tacloban, the AFP deployed troops, land, and aerial assets to other severely damaged areas in Panay Island to deliver relief goods.

• November 12, 2013: The AFP deployed two battalions of Military Engineers and a battalion from the Army’s Special Forces.

• November 13, 2013: Military Engineers along with the Army’s 1st Special Forces Battalion begun road clearing to open up major supply routes and allow for the faster delivery of goods and aid in Tacloban. We also sent 11 trucks from the Army to assist in the transport requirements from the two current major supply drop-off points in Tacloban and Guiuan.

• November 14, 2013: As part of the Bayanihan Express project of the AFP, various relief centers were established in different headquarters in Metro Manila. They will be loaded on military trucks from the Army to be sent to Tacloban from Manila. These self-sustaining troops composed of security elements, maintenance personnel, and communication personnel with equipment will mass in Tacloban and will be redeployed from there to continue ground relief operations in Iloilo, Antique, and Capiz.

• November 15, 2013: As of November 15, the AFP has about 12,000 troops on the ground under the command of Central Command conducting Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) operations in typhoon-affected areas in Visayas. It also has about 3,400 external troops including follow on forces augmenting said troops. Also since day one, four out of 8 SOKOL choppers while 10 out of the 22 huey helicopters are currently conducting HADR operations in Visayas. For our land assets, 81 trucks are continuing transport of relief goods in affected areas. Fifteen Navy vessels were also deployed to conduct HADR in all three incident areas.The AFP’s strategic deployment of its land, air, and naval assets to assist in ongoing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response operations shows that we prioritize on-going relief efforts while maintaining sufficient equipment and support to Internal Security Operations.

• November 16, 2013: As of this morning, the 2nd Serial Bayanihan Express which comprises 140 Army soldiers and 24 military trucks are preparing to depart after re-fueling from Legaspi City towards Tacloban City. The 3rd Serial Bayanihan Express consisting 53 combined Army, Air Force and Navy soldiers with 28 military and civilian trucks/vehicles on the other hand is set to depart Batangas Port to Tacloban City via RORO vessel along with personnel from 1st Special Forces Battalion en route to Tacloban. The Philippine Navy vessel AT296 departed Cavite City today en route to Matnog, Sorsogon. The logistics ship which has a bow ramp will prioritize the transport of military vehicles carrying equipment and personnel who will conduct HADR operations in Tacloban City. The vessel which has a capacity to carry 8 military vehicles is expected to arrive in Sorsogon tomorrow night. Also today, five C-130 flights by the Australian and New Zealand government will be conducted from Mactan Air Port in Cebu to Tacloban, Guian, and Ormoc to transport teams and equipment to augment in ongoing HADR operations in the area. Meanwhile, troops from the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army together with a group of Canadian Army soldiers arrived at Roxas City, Capiz on board a Ceres bus and five M35 trucks loaded with logistics supplies for relief and rehabilitation operations yesterday. A command post was established thereat to monitor movement of relief operations.

According to news reports, the US have deployed no less than six warships including the US flagship aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with at least 80 jet fighters, war helicopters and 5,000 naval soldiers. The US has also deployed the USS Antietam, USS Cowpens, USS Mustin, USS Lasses guided missile cruisers, and the USS Charles Drew supply ship, while the British government sent the HMS Daring warship and a Boeing C-17 military transport craft. US troops are prepositioned in many parts of the country, with news reports citing that the facilities of the Tacloban airport have been taken over by the US military.

While foreign governments and international aid organisations have poured humanitarian aid in some affected areas, many of the coastal, far-flung areas have yet to receive immediate relief. Scores of affected families who lost their homes have been flown to Cebu and Metro Manila, with no comprehensive plan for their rehabilitation and reintegration. According to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, a total of 3,982 individuals were reported dead, 18,266 were injured, and 1,602 are still missing. More than two million families or 10 million individuals were affected.

Martial Law victims and former political prisoners, who are members of SELDA (an organisation which is part of Karapatan) in Eastern Visayas were among those deeply affected by the disaster. Former Hernani town mayor Leo Magno, chairperson of SELDA- Eastern Visayas remains missing and unaccounted for. SELDA coordinator Rene Bahin who is among the evacuees in the San Francisco Central School in Tacloban City also reported that at least 25% of SELDA members and their families in the seven barangays of Marabut town in Samar. We received word that political prisoners detained at the Samar Provincial Jail in Catbalogan, Samar and Tacloban City Jail are ok, while we have yet to get reports on the condition of eight political prisoners at the Leyte Provincial Jail in Palo, Leyte; Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City, Leyte; and in Northern Samar Provincial Jail, Bobon, Northern Samar. Karapatan coordinator Irma Balaba and her daughter are recovering from their near-death experience when the storm surge hit Tacloban City.

This coming November 21, teams of Karapatan will join the contingent of Council for Health and Development, Balsa, and Balsa Mindanao in a national relief mission to Eastern Visayas. They will be distributing relief goods and conduct medical missions, psychosocial therapy sessions, and documentation in the following areas:

Leyte towns: Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Tacloban City, Dulag, Ormoc, Jaro, Alang-alang, Carigara and Kananga

Samar towns: Hernani, Basey, MacArthur, Boronggan, Maydulong, Balangkayan, Lorente, Giporlos, Salcedo, Guiuan, Mercedes, Kinapundan, Balangiga, Marabut

We sent an initial batch of relief goods for our brothers and sisters in Panay and Samar, while the next batch will be brought along this November 21 relief mission. We also raised funds through our garage sale and through the room-to-room and house-to-house campaign of the Concerned Students for Justice and Peace.

Karapatan plans to join the next scheduled relief and rehabilitation missions this December. With your continued support, we hope to be able to extend help to the communities in their rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts in the coming months. For financial donations, please send through the following:

For US dollars:
Account Name: Karapatan
Account Number: 186-2-18600268-1
Bank: Metrobank, Kalayaan Avenue Branch, Quezon City, Philippines

For Philippine Peso:
Account Name: Karapatan
Account Number: 186-3-18618361-5
Bank: Metrobank, Kalayaan Avenue Branch, Quezon City, Philippines

You can contact Ms. Ghay Portajada through numbers +632 4354146 or 0917-8299202 and through email at for your donations.

Below is a list of drop-off points set up by Karapatan chapters for donations nationwide, in coordination with other people’s organisations in the following areas:

Karapatan National Office: 2F Erythrina Building, #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets, Central District, Quezon City

You can contact Ms. Ghay Portajada through numbers +632 4354146 or 0917-8299202 and through email at for your donations.

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan: #55 Ferguson Road, Baguio City
Karapatan Southern Tagalog: 2F BDO Building, Brgy. Poblacion Plaza, Binan, Laguna
Karapatan Panay: Door 2, Jardeleza Apartment, Cuartero St., Jaro, Iloilo City
Karapatan Central Visayas: c/o Ayuda Visayas, 2F Memelys Bldg., corner Mabini and Lopez Jaena Streets, Parian, Cebu City
Karapatan Southern Mindanao: UCCP Haran House Fr. Selga St., Madapo Hills, Davao City 
Karapatan Northern Mindanao: Tabang Mindanao Center 12th-22nd Streets, Barangay Nazareth Cagayan de Oro City 
Karapatan Socsksargends: Part 1, Sitio Toning, Lagao General Santos City 
Karapatan Caraga: Women’s Resource Center Tuazon Subdivision, Brgy Luna Surigao City 

We also released our statement on the disaster. You may view it through the following link: The Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines in the United Kingdom also released this statement today: We enjoin you to issue public statements of concern on the situation here in the Philippines, as an exercise of vigilance.

With our collective efforts, here and abroad, we will surely overcome these difficulties and emerge more united in our efforts not only to rebuild the affected communities but also the whole nation, from the other disasters brought about by the policies and programs of this government.

Again, please accept our appreciation for being one with us.

Sincerely yours,

Marie Hilao Enriquez

Cristina Palabay
Secretary General

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-031-2013
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Military, State of emergency & martial law, Victims assistance & protection,