COMMENTARY

Aquino’s last year a bloodbath for the indigenous peoples

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QUEZON CITY: A day after the gruesome extra-judicial killings of 3 respected leaders in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, lumad leaders were joined by several church personalities, human rights and peace advocates in a press conference to condemn the series of grave human rights violations against the lumad communities. They gripped yellow ribbons dripping with blood over pictures of the victims to represent the so-called “righteous path” and counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino regime as the culprits to the attacks against the indigenous communities, especially in Mindanao.

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“Aquino’s last year is bloodbath for the indigenous peoples. In the last eight months, there have been 13 lumads killed, 4 massacres, and more than 4,000 evacuees from lumad communities due to intense military operations,” said Piya Malayao, a Bontok-Igorot and Secretary General of KATRIBU.

On September 1, 2015, the Magahat/Bagani Forces murdered three persons in Diatagon, Lianga Surigao del Sur. Killed were Dionel “Onel” Campos, Chairperson of the MAPASU (Continuing Struggle for the Next Generation), a local lumad organization of Manobo communities, his cousin Aurello “Bello” Sinzo, and Emerito “Emok” Samarca, the executive director of the ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development), the pioneer indigenous high school in the Caraga Region. Since August 30, the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) with the Magahat/Bagani Force conducted military operations and encamped in communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The Magahat/Bagani Force is paramilitary group formed, armed, and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Due to these recent killings, lumad communities from Diatagon have evacuated and sought sanctuary in other communities and in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

Onel and Bello are now the 67th and 68th victim of extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples under the Aquino regime. They are among the 13 lumads or indigenous peoples in Mindanao killed since March of this year.

Malayao narrated on the series of human rights violations against indigenous peoples. These include the killings of Tata Baito, Frenie Landasa, Bobong Mondejar and Ricky Basig in March, April and June; the massacres in Misamis Oriental on March 29, in Davao City on June 14, in Bukidnon on August 18, and the recent killings in Surigao del Sur on September 1. Continued military operations have resulted to the forcible evacuations in Bukidnon, Saranggani, Davao del Norte and Surigao del Sure that affected more than 20,000 individuals mostly indigenous peoples. Lumad schools and community learning centers established by lumad organizations with support from church and non-government organizations were also harassed and attacked.

“In the recent Surigao del Sur carnage, Emerito Samarca, the community high school executive director’s hands and feet were tied and his throat was slit, and Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo were shot in front of their family and community. The community’s cooperative was burned downed and the school properties (ALCADEV) were destroyed. The perpetrators pointed their guns at the teachers and staff and people were threatened that they would be killed. The military and paramilitary forces hold the law in their hands. This is what we mean when we say that our communities are militarized,” Malayao elaborated.

KATRIBU further explained that the latest encampment, killings and evacuation in Diatagon have become frequent over the months especially in Mindanao due to intensified military operations. KATRIBU points to the implementation of Aquino’s counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan and the continuance the Executive Order 546 that allows the formation of paramilitary groups for these human right violations, and hold accountable the Aquino government for the perpetuation and cover-up of these crimes.

Since BS Aquino assumed the presidency in June 2010, KATRIBU has recorded 68 IP victims of extra-judicial killings, 1 enforced disappearance, 99 cases of harassments, and the filing of trumped-up charges against 176 leaders and members of IP organizations, with 7 leaders incarcerated. There were 9 incidents of bombing of communities and farmlands, and 54 cases of forced evacuations in Mindanao displacing more than 20,000 lumads. Out of the 68 indigenous peoples killed, 53 are lumad.

“With still 9 months remaining, we dread the furtherance of even worse human rights violations by the Aquino government against our communities. We appeal to stop the killings of indigenous peoples, immediately investigate these cases and punish the perpetrators. We demand for the immediate dismantling and disarming of paramilitary groups, the pullout of the military forces from our communities, and to scrap Oplan Bayanihan,” Malayao said.

KATRIBU is the Kalipunan ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas or the National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines.

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