• United Nations asked to review lumad issues

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    A human rights group has formally asked the United Nations (UN) to intervene and investigate the recent murders of a tribal school teacher and two leaders of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur on Saturday.

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    Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan, said in a statement that they raised the issue of the killings and evacuation of around 3,000 lumads (indigenous people) following atrocities allegedly committed by militiamen.

    “We want international bodies to know what is happening in Mindanao—that the lumad, in defense of their land, are being killed and forced to leave their communities,” she said.

    She also said that the group is also asking the UN’s Human Rights Council to investigate and recommend actions to the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd on the issues.

    Palabay was referring to the killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo in a hinterland village in Lianga town Surigao del Sur last September 1.

    Campos is the chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU). Sinzo and Campos were subsequently gunned down by militiamen after Samarca was killed.

    Some 2,000 Han-ayan residents took the dead with them and fled to the sports stadium in provincial capital, Tandag City, where they stayed for fear that their communities would be the next target.

    Palabay also said they wrote letters to at least four UN special rapporteurs namely: Michel Forst, on the situation of human rights defenders; Christof Heyns, on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, on rights of the indigenous peoples; and Chaloka Beyani, on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

    Beyani, at the end of his Philippines visit on July 31, issued a statement that the evacuations of lumad communities stemmed from unease over the presence of military and paramilitary groups in their villages.

    Karapatan also noted that during the UN’s Universal Periodic Review on the Philippines, also in 2012, members of the UNHRC had recommended the disbanding of militias.

    Palabay said that the Aquino government had rejected this recommendation and allowed the proliferation of militia groups as force multipliers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    Meanwhile, hundreds who have been displaced by armed conflict in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur province continue to receive humanitarian assistance from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

    PRC Chairman Richard Gordon said the organization is working with the local government in providing support to some 628 lumad families sheltered at the Oval Sports Complex in Telaje, Tandag City.

    “The PRC reminds all parties to the armed violence of the need to respect human life and dignity at all times. Civilians, regardless of their religion, ethnic group, gender or political beliefs and their property, must be spared from violence,” he said.

    The PRC Surigao Chapter has also started regularly distributing hot meals twice a day to some 13,356 individuals on Sept. 2—It also provided treated water, distributing an average of 20,000 liters per day and initially distributing 40,000 liters.

    The PRC, a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, also set up a welfare desk and a First Aid station and provided psychosocial support to the displaced people and the families of the three fatalities.

    “We hope that the issues will be settled upland and those who are killing and harassing people will be captured,” Gordon said.

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