Guingona on lumad killings: ‘This has to stop’
TANDAG, Surigao del Sur—”This has to stop,” Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III told reporters at the end of the first day of the Senate hearing on the lumad killings on Thursday.
Guingona said the military and police should immediately arrest the suspects who have been identified in the killings.
He said that based on witnesses, the paramilitary men were still roaming around communities “even as we are holding this hearing.”
“Why don’t they arrest them?” he asked.
He said the evacuees—numbering over 2,000 families—will not go home until the suspects are arrested.
He added that the arrest of “at least three suspects” in the Lianga killings on September 1 is the “first step” in attaining justice.
Guingona said those behind the killings of Manobo lumad will be held accountable for what happened.
“In this investigation, accountabilities will be pinpointed. Certain parties will be held accountable for the sad, unfortunate and ugly death of some of our brethren,” Guingona said at the opening of the senate hearing on the killings of lumad in Surigao del Sur.
Guingona, head of the Senate’s subcommittee on justice and human rights, earlier visited the almost 3,000 evacuees at the sports complex. Guingona told the community leaders of the evacuees that he wanted to find a solution so the displaced residents “can go home as soon as possible.”
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, the chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, also attended the said senate hearing.
At the hearing, Ronel Campos, a resident of Sitio Han-ayan in the village of Diatagon in Lianga town, recounted how the members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani killed lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo.
He identified three of at least 30 armed men as Loloy Tejero, Bobby Tejero and Garito Layno, known leaders of the said paramilitary group.
Campos admitted not seeing the killing of Emerito Samarca, the executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), a secondary school that caters to lumad students.
Samarca was found dead, his hands and feet tied and his throat slit, inside a room of the Alcadev school.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel, as reported in media interviews, called for the disbandment of the paramilitary group and the arrest of the suspects to bring justice to the victims.
Pimentel said he has asked the military since 2014 to do something about the paramilitary. He cited the killing of Henry Alameda who was allegedly killed by members of the Magahat-Bagani group led by Marcial Belandres in San Agustin town on October 24, 2014.
Belandres was among the three lumad leaders who held a press conference inside Camp Aguinaldo last September. A murder cased was recently filed against Belandres for the killing of Alameda, whose wife Zenaida was scheduled to speak before the Senate hearing.
Pimentel also cited the killings of Tabugol brothers in San Miguel town on August 28, 2015, or three days before the September 1 killings in Lianga town.
The governor said that on August 31, he had asked the military and police to act on the killings, but did not expect that “in less than 24 hours” the Lianga killings would happen.
Pimentel earlier said the paramilitary group was created, trained, funded and armed by the military.
At the Senate hearing, however, the military denied it has links with the Magahat-Bagani.
Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, chief of the military’s 4th Infantry Division, said they “do not condone” the existence of the paramilitary group.
“We only have the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the Cafgu (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit),” Lactao said.
But Pimentel said if indeed the military does not condone the activities of the paramilitary group, “why then do they have a camp near a military detachment?”
The military, however, denied receiving reports of paramilitary groups having camps near military detachments.
But Sister Gemma Avellana said the Magahat-Bagani group led by Hasmin Acebedo has a camp in the village of Karomata in San Miguel town, which is “just a kilometer and a half” away from the military’s detachment in the village of Umalag.
Father Glen Acosta, assistant parish priest of Barobo town, also said parishioners have reported that the Magahat-Bagani group led by Bobby has a camp in the village of San Vicente in Barobo.
Acosta said the Magahat-Bagani camp in San Vicente is located “very near” where government soldiers are positioned in the village of Mamis.
Chief Supt. Vert Chavez, the acting police director for the Caraga Region, said they will check on the report.
But Chavez said the police have a continuing operation to go after the suspects in the September. 1 killings in Lianga town.
“We are also continuing our investigation to identify the other suspects,” he said, referring to at least 27 unidentified suspects in the charge sheet.
Warrants for the arrest of Tejeros and Layno and 27 John Does have been recently issued by the Regional Trial Court in Lianga town.
The family of Alameda is still waiting for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of Belandres, the main suspect in the killing.
Sources said they saw Belandres, his wife and four children arrived in Manila last Tuesday.
Belandres and his family were allegedly fetched by men in uniform at the airport in Manila. Nico Alconaba/RAM
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