Murder, other raps filed vs militia members for Surigao Sur slays
DAVAO CITY – Murder and other criminal charges have been filed against leaders and members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group for the September 1 attack in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, which left three people dead and displaced thousands of lumad residents, human rights group Karapatan said Wednesday.
Eliza Pangilinan, Karapatan secretary general for Caraga region, said the charges were filed at the Surigao del Sur prosecutor’s office in Lianga, through the assistance of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, on Tuesday.
She said witnesses to the attacks, which led to the deaths of Emerito Samarca, the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Dionel Campos, chair of the Maluhutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sumusunod (Mapasu); and Manobo Datu Juvello Sinzo, were the ones who filed the charges.
Among those charged with multiple murder, were alleged Magahat-Bagani leaders Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandrez, Kalpet Egua. Twenty other John Does were also named in the charge sheet.
“The complainants from the communities that are among the evacuees in sanctuary at the Surigao del Sur Sports Complex in Tandag City, felt the urgent need to file these cases and despite misgivings, voluntarily talked with local authorities, including investigators from the Provincial PNP, to provide information and assist in the immediate arrest of the perpetrators,” Pangilinan said.
More than 2,000 residents from the village of Diatagon fled their homes after militiamen identified with the Magahat-Bagani group stormed Alcadev. Samarca’s dead body was found with a stab wound and a slit throat inside one of the school’s classrooms.
Alcadev is a privately operated but government-regulated learning institution that provides basic and technical education to lumad children in communities barely reached by government services.
After killing Samarca, the witnesses said the armed men also killed Campos and his cousin, Sinzo while the entire village was watching.
The armed men also burned the community’s cooperative building adjacent to the school.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel earlier said he was aware of the military’s role in the creation of the Magahat-Bagani and even asked for its immediate disbandment. His and other officials’ appeals have fallen on deaf ears, he said.
Pimentel also said he would support the filing of the charges against the perpetrators of the September 1 killings.
The lumad people in Lianga said aside from the counterinsurgency campaign, the Bagani and the military stepped up their aggression in the area to fast-track the entry of mining and logging operations.
“The communities, human rights organizations and advocates are doing our part so that the criminals can be arrested immediately and the evacuees can return safely to their communities,” Pangilinan said.
With the filing of the charges, Karapatan challenged the government to ensure that truth would prevail and that justice would be served.
“The ball is now in their hands. We urge law-enforcement authorities to do their part so that the killing rampage of these armed paramilitary groups can be immediately stopped,” Pangilinan said.
Meanwhile, a four-year-old girl, who was among those displaced by the recent violence blamed on a paramilitary group in Surigao del Sur, died of respiratory problem on Tuesday, Karapatan reported Wednesday.
“It was in early in the morning when the child was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, she was declared dead on arrival,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said the girl, whose mother was identified as Maribel Enriquez, was suffering from asthma.
The Enriquez family was among the 2,805 displaced residents from the towns of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, San Miguel and Tago, who fled the attacks of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group.
Pangilinan said the traumatic experience of being caught in the middle of violence and forced to leave their home and stay in an evacuation center had worsened the child’s condition.
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