Senators demand militiamen’s arrest
TANDAG CITY—Senator Teofisto Guingona III on Friday asked police and military to arrest the three militiamen who have been tagged as leaders of the group accused of killing three “lumad” leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur province.
On Sept. 1, members of the militia Magahat-Bagani raided the community of Han-ayan in the village of Diatagon in Lianga. The armed men killed Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), and lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo.
Alcadev is a privately-owned school that caters to lumad students. The military has accused Alcadev of being a training ground for the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
In a press briefing before the start of the second day of the Senate hearing on the killings, Guingona said three of the suspects—Loloy Tejero, Bobby Tejero and Garito Layno—have been identified but are roaming freely.
He said as the Senate hearing is being conducted, “these people are freely roaming around.”
Almost 3,000 people have fled their homes following the killings. They are now staying at the sports complex here.
Guingona said the evacuees would not return to their homes if the suspects remained scot-free.
“Why don’t they arrest them?” he said, referring to police and military authorities.
He said the arrest of “at least the three suspects” in the Lianga killings is “step one” to attaining justice.
Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, in a speech at the opening of the second day of the hearing on Friday, said the religious sector in the Caraga region “shares the demand of the governor that those accused in the killings be brought to justice.”
Militias, said Odchimar, should be disarmed and disbanded.
The bishop also questioned the authenticity of the surrender of Marcial Belandres, a suspect in the killing of lumad leader Henry Alameda last year. Belandres and two other lumad leaders surrendered last month and held a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo, the main armed forces headquarters.
A murder case has been filed against Belandres. Alameda’s family is awaiting the court’s issuance for Belandres’ arrest.
Odchimar said Belandres and his family flew to Manila on Wednesday and was fetched by government soldiers at the airport.
Also on the second day of the hearing on Friday, a businesswoman from Barobo town testified against the militia, accusing it of extortion.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said the extortion case in Barobo town “is another basis” to arrest leaders of the militia.
Mayor Alan Palenio, of Marihatag town, said at least 200 families of Barangay Mahaba fled their homes on Thursday night following reports that Bobby Tejero was coming to the hinterland village.
“Please get Bobby Tejero” was Palenio’s appeal.
Guingona said the mayor’s report “made it clearer that even as we speak, or maybe after yesterday’s (Thursday’s) hearing, the evacuation continues.”
“The mere mention of his name (Bobby Tejero) can sow terror,” he said.
“With the mere mention of his name, people will evacuate and we cannot blame them because of the recent killing,” he added.
But Col. Isidro Purisima, head of the Army’s 402nd Brigade, said the evacuation in Barangay Mahaba was a result of a clash between government soldiers and NPA rebels.
Palenio also read the joint statement of the mayors of Marihatag, Tago, Bayabas, Cagwait, San Agustin, Lianga and San Miguel towns calling on the armed forces “to disband all armed groups in the area without necessarily causing massive displacement of the residents.”
The mayors, in their statement, also called on the “Bagani forces and all other armed groups in the area to surrender and submit themselves to the peace process.” Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao/CDG
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.