Army, police to investigate lumad slays
A joint military and police task force has been formed to investigate the recent killings of three tribal community leaders and the burning of a cooperative store in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
In a statement, the 4th Infantry Division said Joint Task Force “Tejero,” composed of personnel from the Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office and the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, would speed up the arrest of three suspects in the incident.
The suspects—identified as Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero and Gareto Layno—are said to be leaders of a paramilitary group fighting the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Charges of grave coercion, murder, arson, robbery and grave threats have already been filed against the three for the killing on Sept. 1 of Emerito Samarca, director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvillo Sinzo in Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
The military denied it had anything to do with the deaths of the three lumads and said the suspects, leaders of the so-called Magahat-Bagani armed group, were members of a rival Manobo clan.
Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, civil relations service chief, insisted the AFP had no control over armed lumad groups, as they were not part of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit which is the legal paramilitary force under their control and supervision.
“(We) are working with local government officials and lumad tribal leaders to facilitate a mediation process and stop the escalation of violence among the warring Manobo clans in the Caraga region,” said Kakilala.
The Magahat-Bagani force, he added, was formed by members of lumad tribes who were former NPA rebels but now wanted to fight the communist rebels and were not part of the military’s command structure.
The military said there was no direct or indirect link that pointed to the military’s involvement in the killings allegedly perpetrated by the Magahat-Bagani group.
“We don’t condone these senseless killings. If you remember, we helped the police hunt down the group of Datu Bakintoy which also perpetrated the killing of people in hinterland villages. We can do the same this time,” the military official said.
In a report, Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, 4th Infantry Division commander, described the conflict as “a tribal conflict in the context of insurgency.” This, he said, meant that one tribal group was affiliated with the NPA and was in conflict with anti-NPA lumads.
Lactao said their presence in the area would be only for peacekeeping missions to prevent further bloodshed in the area.
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