CHR, governor probe ‘lumad’ killings by soldiers in Surigao del Sur
BUTUAN CITY — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is set to investigate the killing of three members of the Manobo tribe, one of them a 12-year-old girl, in Lianga town of Surigao del Sur on June 15 by soldiers who claimed they were New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, in a statement on Friday, said their office in the Caraga region “will dispatch an investigation team to look into the violent death of these indigenous peoples allegedly perpetrated by the military.”
“Under the international humanitarian law (IHL), the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants must be observed at all times. More so, IHL provides protection for children as persons not taking part in hostilities,” De Guia said.
According to De Guia, the CHR was also concerned by allegations that the “female victims were sexually assaulted.”
“While we wait for the results of the independent probe, the commission urges the government to shed light on these deaths and conduct its own investigation to bring justice to the death of Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and 12-year-old Angel Rivas,” De Guia added.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Alexander Pimentel also ordered the province’s peace and order council to look into the killings.
Pimentel said he asked Bishop Raul Dael of the Diocese of Tandag, a representative of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Surigao del Sur Indigenous People Mandatory Representative Jimmy Guinsod, Lianga Mayor Novelita Moreno Sarmen, concerned village officials and other representatives to join in the investigation.
Angel, a student of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Alternative Learning System (ALS), her 21-year-old elder sister Lenie, her cousin Willy and three others were taking a break from their work stripping abaca at Sitio Panukmuan of Barangay Diatagon when they went to the town center around noon of Tuesday to buy rice, according to the account of the victim’s aunt as told to the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network.
While in town, they reportedly came across some soldiers who, without warning, opened fire at them, killing Angel, Lenie and Willy. Three of their companions were able to run for safety.
The aunt, who asked not to be named for safety reasons, told SOS Network the family only learned about the incident around 10 p.m. of the same day when soldiers brought Angel’s body to the community, wrapped in plastic and tape. Lenie’s and Willy’s bodies were later found in separate locations and were brought by soldiers to a funeral home in Diaton.
Rius Valle, secretary general of SOS Network, said the family was extremely shocked to see the bodies because they were mangled and unrecognizable. He said that based on the aunt’s account, Angel was beyond recognition; her face was full of stitches.
The aunt was quoted as saying: “It was unbearable and unacceptable … They defiled her body. She was raped, her genital was torn. Willy’s limbs were fractured and wrapped with packaging tape.”
He said Angel was an honor student of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur before she was moved to ALS during this pandemic. Lenie and Willy were members of the “lumad” group Mapasu, whose members had been red-tagged by the military.
Lt. Col. Benedict Harvey Gernale, 3rd Special Forces Battalion commanding officer, said his troops were in a pursuit operation against the NPA in Sitio New Decoy, also of Barangay Diatagon, when the rebels reportedly fired at soldiers and detonated an antipersonnel mine.
After the 10-minute firefight, soldiers recovered the three bodies, he said.
Soldiers claimed they found at the clash site in Sitio Decoy an AK47 rifle, two .45-caliber pistols, two antipersonnel mines, a claymore mine, magazines and ammunition, two blasting caps, a 25-meter detonating cord, and a 3-m electrical wire attached to a firing switch.
“The three were already lifeless when found by the responding troops,” claimed Maj. Rodulfo Cordero Jr., spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
Human rights group Karapatan described the killings as “a testimony of the (Duterte) regime’s hideous legacy of killings” that resulted in the death of 121 individuals in different parts of the country.
The Child Rights Network, an alliance of child rights groups and advocates, also demanded an independent probe into the killings. INQ
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