‘Lumad’ killings extrajudicial, says CHR
The Sept. 1 killings in a lumad (indigenous) community in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were clearly “extrajudicial,” or done outside the official legal system, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“We’re looking at these photos, and there is no possible explanation to say this was an encounter or a tribal war,” said CHR Chair Chito Gascon.
“Even if the fact-finding mission isn’t completed yet, it is clear to us from the photos alone that these were extrajudicial killings. And we condemn them,” he added.
Gascon made the statements in a dialogue with lumad representatives at the CHR Quezon City office, where witnesses from Barangay Diatagon, where the killings took place, showed him photos of the crime scene as well as of the victims: school director Emerito Samarca and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo.
During the dialogue, lumad representatives accused military and paramilitary groups of the killings and of harassment of the indigenous communities in Mindanao, and called for the pullout of the military from ancestral domain lands and the disarming and dismantling of paramilitary groups.
Gascon said that while the CHR could not comment on the operational mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in areas of conflict, and was careful not to “prejudge” the alleged involvement of the military, he assured the lumad representatives that the CHR was one with them in calling for the dismantling of paramilitary groups.
“There is no justification for auxiliary forces or augmentation forces that are not properly trained and oriented to do the work of the military. We call on the government to seriously review this longstanding policy involving augmentation, and to withdraw support for paramilitary groups who have been engaged in these atrocities. In fact, these paramilitary groups should be disarmed and disbanded, and their leaders who have committed crimes be brought to justice,” Gascon told reporters.
He said the CHR was continuing in its investigation to determine if government forces were complicit. He said the CHR would be holding a public inquiry in Davao next week to look into the “grave” situation of the indigenous people in Mindanao, as a whole, and not just as isolated incidents.
“The situation is getting graver. It needs a comprehensive government response. The situation of refugees in Tandag, Haran, in Palay-Palay and elsewhere, needs to be attended to. There have been horrendous atrocities and crimes perpetrated by persons who should be identified and definitely be brought to justice,” he said.
The Army on Saturday denied allegations that government forces were targeting activists helping indigenous peoples, as shown by a supposed “hit list.”
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