3,000 lumad evacuees stuck in Tandag City, long for home by Christmas
DAVAO CITY — All they want is to be home for Christmas.
More than three months after leaving their homes in five hinterland towns of Surigao del Sur, the almost 3,000 lumad evacuees continue to stay at the sports complex in Tandag City. The lumad fled their homes after paramilitary men killed a lumad school executive and two tribal leaders in Lianga town on Sept. 1.
Charges have already been filed against three of suspects, who are members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group, but none has been arrested.
Governor Johnny Pimentel earlier said the Magahat-Bagani was created, trained, funded and armed by the military, an allegation that the Armed Forces of the Philippines repeatedly denied.
Pimentel said the suspects in the killing should be arrested , and the group disarmed and disbanded, so that the evacuees could return to their homes.
Some of the evacuees claimed they have received text messages warning them that they will be killed if they return to their homes
Michelle Campos, daughter of slain lumad leader Dionel Campos, has explained that although culturally, lumads do not have Christmas, they celebrate this with the Christian community members.
“It would be nice to celebrate Christmas in our homes,” Campos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Campos said the police and military should arrest the suspects in the killings, and disband the paramilitary group.
“If these things are done, we might consider returning to our homes,” Campos said.
She also said they demanded the immediate pullout of government soldiers from their communities.
Campos was one of the at least 700 tribal people who joined the month-long Manilakbayan, where they stayed in Manila in an effort to let people and government know about their plight. They returned to Mindanao even if government failed to give in their demands.
The suspects in the killings remain free even as the Senate committee in human rights, led by Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Aquilino Pimentel II, held a public hearing in Tandag City on Oct. 1.
Guingona, after the public hearing, said he was giving the police and military “decent enough time” to arrest the suspects. SFM
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