Lumad killings ‘extensively planned,’ says Tandag diocese
The Diocese of Tandag on Tuesday strongly condemned the killings of “lumad” or indigenous peoples in Surigao del Sur, urging the government to conduct investigations to prosecute those behind it.
In a statement, the diocese said the target of the “extensively planned” killings were those who opposed mining activities in the area.
“In a deeper analysis of the situation, it is possible that this series of incidents of threats and harassments could have ceased long ago if there was no one behind all this. One can see and understand that only those community of [lumads] who firmly stand to protect the forest and reject mining activities and anything that destroys nature were obviously the ones being hounded and intimidated supposedly by the aforementioned notorious group,” the diocese said.
“Gathering all these, we can say that all this could be [work] that has been extensively planned. Our indigenous people who, ever since, have been one with Nature, have lived in and survived out of their land of heritage, are now victims of those who are hungry and greedy for power and wealth,” it added.
On Sept. 1, Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvillo Sinzo, together with Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, were killed allegedly by the Magahat-Bagani group, a paramilitary force being linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
But both the military and President Benigno Aquino III denied the allegations, saying that the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) is the only paramilitary unit of the AFP.
Saying that lumads have the same rights as any other Filipino citizen, the diocese urged the government to go after the suspected paramilitary groups behind the killings by disarming and filing cases against them.
“Because the lumads are likewise living beings created by the same God who made and gave us equal rights, we call upon those defenders of the rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters to file the case on the suspected perpetrators so that justice shall be given to the victims and their families. Like all of us, the [lumads] have human rights as well. Let us therefore give them the justice that they deserve,” the statement read.
“Both the provincial and local governments must see to it that the case filed against the alleged group will not result [in] a cover up achieving no certainty of attaining justice to the victims, all because of some powerful people who exert their influence on the justice system, who could also be the reason why the suspects continue to exist,” it added.
Calling the killings as a “breakdown of peace and order,” the diocese said the Department of Justice and the Commission of Human Rights should carefully look into reports linking the Magahat-Bagani group to the Philippine military
“The AFP should also respond to more allegations that the military, for instance, planned and allowed this group to terrorize [lumad] communities as part of their counterinsurgency campaign while also in collusion with big mining companies that would like to take advantage of the rich resources of Nature to the detriment of the lives and existence of our indigenous brothers and sisters,” the diocese added.
The priests of Tandag also urged Filipinos to be united in praying for lumads, particularly for the for the fast-tracking of the due process of law “to achieve justice and peace for the victims and their families.”
“The [lumads] have always been one with and have lived in Nature; they are the more affected communities when it comes to the threats to destroy Nature; they are the heroes in protecting our natural resources from those who are selfish and greedy; they are now the ones in need of our combined and continuing support,” the diocese said. Yuji Vincent Gonzales