UN agency: Arrest, try ‘lumad’ slay perpetrators
DAVAO CITY—A United Nations agency has called for the immediate arrest and trial of members of armed groups, including government-backed militias, responsible for a series of killings of “lumad” leaders and attacks on lumad communities in Mindanao.
In a bulletin issued on Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said at least 14 lumad leaders, activists and villagers, including children, were killed in five separate cases of extrajudicial killings and four massacres in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Bukidnon, Sarangani and Surigao del Sur since March.
UNHCR noted at least six cases of forced evacuations in 10 indigenous communities, saying “more communities (are) at risk of displacement.”
It said at least 6,000 indigenous peoples (IP) had been reported displaced.
The UN agency said abuses committed against IP communities included “grave violations” of children’s rights, killings and attacks on schools.
“The IP communities are believed to be targeted for organizing against the government and extraction and farming businesses on their ancestral land,” the UNHCR bulletin said.
In Tandag City, at least 3,000 lumad have sought shelter in a sports complex after fleeing their homes in the towns of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, San Miguel and Tago in Surigao del Sur province for fear of militia attacks.
Most of the lumad are from the village of Diatagon which was raided by militiamen. Among those killed in the attack was Emerito Samarca, executive director of the award-winning school Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev).
Alcadev is a privately operated but government-regulated learning institution that provides basic and technical education to lumad children in communities rarely reached by government services.
Gov. Johnny Pimentel, of Surigao del Sur, and local Church officials pointed to the militia Magahat-Bagani as responsible for the attacks, accusing the military of creating and supporting the armed group.
The military has tagged several lumad who were killed in counterinsurgency operations as members of the guerilla group New People’s Army, including five lumad killed on Aug. 18 in Bukidnon in a military operation.
But a survivor of the Aug. 18 killings in Bukidnon, a 16-year-old lumad, surfaced to deny the military story.
The UNHCR report said field investigation yielded information that the attacks were perpetrated by government-backed militias, supporting claims made by Pimentel, Church officials and villagers.
According to UNHCR, one thing is common in attacks on lumad communities in the provinces of Bukidnon, Surigao and Davao del Norte—government-backed militias are behind them.
While acknowledging the investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice, UNHCR said the attacks have been taking place since 2010 and there has been little, or no, effort from the government to protect communities at risk. Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao
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