• Authorities probe lumad harassment

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    The police have filed charges against the suspects in the killing of a lumad leader and his two companions in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur.

    The reports sent by Surigao Del Sur Provincial Police Office (SDNPPO) to the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Operation Center in Camp Crame said that the charges were filed by Lianga Municipal Police against Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero, Gareto Layno and twenty other “John Does” on Monday.

    The reports added that the charges of grave coercion filed before the Surigao del Sur Provincial Prosecutor’s office were based on the testimonies and statements obtained directly by the police from at least eight witnesses.

    It was on September 1 that members of a para-military group reportedly known as the Bagani forces swooped down on the compound of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Cooperative (ALCADEV) in Surigao del Sur.

    The militia killed Emerito Samarka, 61, ALCADEV director before setting the school on fire. The suspects also shot to death Dionel Campos, 42, and Orellio Sinzo, 61.

    Vice President Jejomar Binay is deeply concerned by reports of the killing of Lumad leaders in the Caraga region.

    In a statement, Joey Salgado, head of the Office of the Vice President’s media affairs, said that Binay is also concerned about the displacement of the Lumad people, an indigenous group in Mindanao.

    “The Vice President is asking the concerned agencies to look into the matter thoroughly and take the needed steps to protect the rights of aggrieved individuals,” he added.

    Three persons have already been killed and atrocities are continually being committed.

    Communities are being forced out of their homes, too, Salgado said.

    “This alone cries out for immediate government action,” he added.

    The Philippine Army said on Wednesday that 24 cases of human rights violations including the rape of a lumad minor in Davao del Norte are being investigated.

    “The Philippine Army will not tolerate its erring personnel, especially those who will violate the human rights regardless of rank and position,” said Lt. Col. Alfredo Patarata, the acting commander of the Army’s Human Rights Office (AHRO).

    “We are now conducting a special investigation on the three Army soldiers involved in the alleged sexual offense on a lumad minor in Talaingod, Davao del Norte,” said Patarata.

    The three soldiers, whose names are withheld pending the result of the investigation, were placed under the custody of an Army division in Mindanao.

    Of the 24 cases, the AHRO said one of the cases is under review by a court martial while another case is before the Philippine Army Efficiency and Separation Board.

    The soldiers involved in the two cases are prosecuted for violating the Army’s Rules of Engagement in the conduct of their operations.

    “The rest are mere allegations and lacks evidence,” Patarata explained.

    Established in 2010, the AHRO is tasked to monitor incidents of alleged human rights and international humanitarian law violations of Army personnel. It directs concerned units to conduct an initial investigation on reported human rights violations.

    The investigating units then makes recommendation to authorities concerned for further investigation and the subsequent prosecution of personnel before the General Court Martial, if their involvement in the cases is duly established and proven by competent evidence.

    WITH BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON

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