‘Probe killings’

Army, paramilitary groups eyed in Lumad deaths

THE leftist Makabayan bloc in the House joined Senator Loren Legarda  Thursday  in seeking an investigation into the killing of a Lumad teacher and members of the Manobo tribe, allegedly at the hands of the military and a paramilitary group on Sept. 1.

Reps. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis, Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, Neri Colmenares and Isagani Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Emmi de Jesus and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, and Terry Ridon of Kabataan filed a resolution directing the House committee on human rights to conduct an investigation into the killing of Lumad teacher Emerito Samarca and Manobol leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The lawmakers identified the suspects as members of the Army and the paramilitary group Mahagat-Bagani Forces.

Legarda, chairman of the Senate committee on cultural communities, filed Senate Resolution 1575 expressing concern over the spate of killings of Lumad leaders and other reports about the harassment of indigenous communities in Mindanao.

“This situation of Lumads being harassed, killed and displaced will turn into a humanitarian crisis, if the national government does not intervene. I seek justice for the death of our Lumad leaders. Harassment of indigenous communities in Mindanao must stop,” Legarda said.

Hicap said there was a need to shed light on the killings.

“This should be exposed across the country and even in the international community, as it appears that it is the Aquino government itself that has carried out the massacre, a brutal act that was just part of a series of military atrocities in the island, coming less than two weeks after the 1st Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army was reported to have massacred five Manobo Lumads, all farmers, in Pangantucan town, Bukidnon,” he said.

The lawmakers said Samarca, 54, married with four children, was the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, a self-initiated school for the Lumad in Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur and founded in 2004.

Samarca also worked for a Lumad support institution in CARAGA, from 1990 to 1998, and a local peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas before that.

Campos was the chairperson of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) or MAPASU, they said.

Sinzo belonged to the same group.

They said the Karapatan human rights group reported that on the morning of Sept. 1, Samarca was found dead with a stab wound and a slit throat inside one of the classrooms of his school.

On the same day some three kilometers away from Sitio Han-ayan, Campos and his cousin Sinzo were, according to witnesses cited in the Karapatan report, shot to death by members of the Mahagat-Bagani Force, a paramilitary group allegedly taking orders from the Army.

At the time of the shooting, they said, Campos and Sinzo were with an ALCADEV staff member, Belen Itallo, who was wounded but escaped death.

“Workers of ALCADEV and members of MAPASU identified the armed perpetrators as elements of the Mahagat-Bagani Force and the 36th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

On Aug. 30, 2015, citing the fact-finding mission report of Karapatan, the lawmakers said before the killing, about 40 soldiers of the 36 Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army, 75th IB-PA, Special Forces, and members of the Mahagat-Bagani Force associated with a known military asset, Marcos Bocales, occupied the school grounds and the function hall of ALCADEV.

The troops and the Bocales group threatened the school’s faculty members, staff, and ordinary residents, saying that if they did not leave in two days, they would be massacred.

The soldiers also asked community members about the whereabouts of ALCADEV and other organizations.

“The armed men confiscated the cell- phones and cameras of the residents, ALCADEV staff and visitors of the community,” they said.

On Aug. 31, the community cooperative store of MAPASU was burned down by the Mahagat-Bagani Force as soldiers fired their weapons indiscriminately around the community, causing residents to flee their homes.

Late in the afternoon, half of the solders were seen leaving Han-ayan and headed for Km. 16.

As residents and teachers were leaving Sitio Han-ayan, 25 soldiers of the 75th IB-PA and three to five members of the Mahagat-Bagani Force, all described to be in full battle gear, remained in the community.

“Residents who were evacuating the area saw how the military and para-military elements brought Samarca, who was then already tied around the neck, hands and feet, inside one of the classrooms in the ALCADEV compound,” the lawmakers said in the resolution.

By the evening of Aug. 31, ALCADEV faculty members and most of the residents were already in Km. 16.

At  4 a.m.  on Sept. 1, soldiers went from house to house ordering residents to come out.

Members of the Mahagat-Bagani Force ordered Belen Itallo to sit beside Campos, after which, known member of the para-military group Bobby Tejero and his brother Loloy Tejero shot Campos in the head, killing him instantly.

Some 20 armed men fired indiscriminately at Campos, Sinzo and Itallo, leaving Sinzo dead and Itallo wounded.

“Later in the morning, the community members who went back to the ALCADEV campus found Samarca’s dead body, with a gaping cut in the throat that ran practically from ear to ear, his face bruised and almost unrecognizable,” the Makabayan lawmakers said in the resolution.

“The incident [forced] around 307 families or about 2,000 individuals to evacuate to Tandag City where they brought the remains of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo,” they said.

They demanded justice for the victims and are calling for the immediate stop to the escalating killings and the massive militarization in entire Mindanao.

In Surigao del Sur, outgoing Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II defended the Armed Forces against comlaints of Manobo evacuees.

In an interview with Surigao media, Roxas echoed the police line, saying that the perpetrators of the massacre were not members of the Armed Forces.

Asked about the repeated claim by Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel that the Mahagat-Bagani force was created by the military, Roxas said “the matter should be left with the Philippine National Police” which is already conducting an investigation.

In a video posted on social media networks, Roxas and Pimentel are shown visiting a provincial sports center where about 3,000 Manobos have sought refuge from the paramilitary operations in their homes.

In the video, Roxas is seen making the rounds with Pimentel and a camera crew, when he unexpectedly turned around and proceeded to a small tent. There he asked an evacuee why he had not returned to his home in the town of Liang yet.

“Because there are still soldiers there, sir,” came a swift reply in Visayan from one evacuee.

“So, aren’t soldiers supposed to protect you?” Roxas said.

“What protection? They [soldiers] are the ones killing our families there,” the Manobo woman replied.

Roxas again asked, “Soldiers?” to which the woman immediately asked back: “Who else? Bagani and the soldiers.” With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan

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