Probe sought into ‘lumad’ killings
A health group advocating community welfare on Monday called for an immediate independent investigation into the murder of three lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur last week, saying the killings brought to light the continued militarization of indigenous communities under the Aquino administration.
Community-Based Health Programs of the Philippines (CBHPs) said the deaths of development worker Emerito Samarca and indigenous peoples’ leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo must be brought to justice. It also called for the immediate disarming of militia groups.
“As fellow advocates of community welfare, the CBHPs condemn the continuous military-backed harassment and killing of community leaders,”
Dr. Eleanor Jara, executive director of the Council for Health Development, the national organization of 64 CBHPs nationwide, said in a statement.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to receive a huge chunk of the national budget and has boasted of using it for peace and
development. On the contrary, human rights violations attributed to the military and military-backed units have only intensified under the Aquino administration,” she said.
Learning center for IPs
The three were killed on Sept. 1 by armed men allegedly belonging to the AFP-backed paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani Force. Campos, chair of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), and Sinzo, a member, were gunned down in the presence of community members.
Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), also a member of the CBHPs, was found dead with multiple stab wounds and a slit throat on the school premises in Baragay (village) Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Alcadev supports underprivileged indigenous peoples’ communities through livelihood and education.
Jara said the people of Mindanao, particularly the indigenous people, continued to be deprived of social services because of massive land-grabbing, environmental destruction, mining incursions and militarization.
The organizations run by the three victims were working to help these communities attain the basic rights that the government had failed to provide, she said.
‘Not sanctioned by gov’t’
Meanwhile, the military has denied involvement in the paramilitary group allegedly responsible for the killing of leaders of indigenous groups in the Caraga region.
Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, said the military did not organize the Mahagat-Bagani force which has been tagged in several lumad killings.
“I deny the report that we are the ones who organized it… We will support calls to disarm and disband them, since this is already criminality,” said Baladad.
He also denied the group was under the military’s control or with the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
“I believe this can be a part of a private armed group because this is not sanctioned by the government,” he said.
Baldad said the military wanted to secure the region so the residents could live normal lives.
“We do not sanction this, we condemn the killing of the civilians there,” the military official said.
On Monday, a lumad group from Surigao del Sur sought justice for the recent murders allegedly rooted in mining issues.
In a press conference at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila, witness Imelda Bilandras related how some 50 armed men entered their village during the wake for her father and shot Campos and Sinzo and later stabbed Samarca.
Bilandras said the group threatened to raze the entire community if they did not leave their homes.
Sr. Cecille Ido, chair of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters, called for the dismantling of paramilitary groups involved in the government’s counterinsurgency program.
“These [murdered] men were outstanding Manobo leaders who pursued their struggle to assert their right over ancestral domain which, unfortunately, the government and foreign mining investors have set their eyes on because of the rich minerals in [the area],” Ido said.—Jocelyn R. Uy, Julie M. Aurelio and Jodee A. Agoncillo
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