WHERE is Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima?
One cannot help but see her, happy face smiling, waving the L sign in front of that crowd in Cebu. One cannot help but see her dancing the “Macarena,” enjoying the festivities of her birthday.
One cannot help but wonder where she is, why we have yet to hear her voice about the cases of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Bello Sinzo, all from Surigao de Sur. All dead in the hands of AFP units and its paramilitary group.
While Manila was partying
On August 30, 40 soldiers of the 36th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA), the 75th IBPA, and known members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani Force/Marcos Bocales group, occupied the function hall and parts of the school grounds of ALCADEV in Sitio Han-ayan, Surigao del Sur.
ALCADEV or Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development is “an alternative learning system especially designed to provide secondary education to indigent indigenous youth—the Manobo, Banwaon, Higanon, Talaandig, and Mamanwa of Surigao del Norte and Sur and Agusan Norte and Sur.”
August 29 was the Foundation Day of ALCADEV, and visitors who had stayed behind saw the soldiers and members of the paramilitary group take over the school.
During the military and paramilitary encampment, the school’s faculty members and staff, as well as the community, were told they had two days to leave or they would be massacred. Their cellphones and cameras were confiscated. Community members were asked about the whereabouts of ALCADEV and TRIFPSS staff members and faculty.
On August 31, the community’s cooperative store was burned down by the paramilitary group. The soldiers fired indiscriminately at the community. Residents started to flee to nearby Km.16. By the afternoon, half of the soldiers in ALCADEV were seen leaving Han-ayan going in the direction of Km16. Twenty-five soldiers of the 75th IBPA and three to five members of the paramilitary group remained in the community.
The case of Emerito Samarca
Samarca was Executive Director of the ALCADEV. He was staff member when the institution began; he became Executive Director in 2012.
He also worked with SILDAP-SIDLAKAN, a Lumad support institution in Caraga from 1990-1998, and was part of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN)-KMP in the 1980’s.
On August 31, as the residents of Han-ayan were leaving for KM.16, they saw Samarca tied around the neck, hands, and feet. He was brought inside one of the classrooms in the ALCADEV compound.
On September 1, his body was found in one of the classrooms in ALCADEV.
His throat was slit open, with a cut that ranged from ear to ear.
Samarca was 54 years old, married with four children.
He was a teacher, a community leader, a man who lived in the service of others.
He was a teacher.
The case of Campos, Sinzo, Itallo
In the early morning of September 1, soldiers started going house-to-house in KM.16, ordering residents to get out of their houses and proceed to the center of the community.
Dionel Campos, Bello Sinzo, and Belen Itallo were at the house of Josephine Pagalan.
Campos was Chairperson of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) or Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation. He is also the cousin of Jalandoni Campos, the Lumad leader who has been falsely charged with a criminal offense.
Sinzo is a member of MAPASU. Itallo was accused by the paramilitary group of being seen in the company of members of the New People’s Army. Crippled by polio since childhood, Itallo showed them her feet and told them of her difficulty with walking.
The armed men ordered Itallo to sit beside Campos. Community members were ordered to “drop.”
The paramilitary group shot Campos on the head, blowing off the back of his head.
Sinzo was shot dead.
Itallo ducked and kept her eyes closed during the shooting. She survived.
Some 20 armed men fired indiscriminately around Campos, Sinzo and Itallo.
The community members were witness to the killing.
Living in fear
While Manila was watching the INC rally take place. While DOJ Secretary de Lima celebrated her birthday at the DOJ office. While Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and the Liberal Party government focuses on their 2016 campaign.
While we stand in compassion with the Syrian refugees and migrants who are dying in transit to elsewhere in the world.
Right here, people live in fear of men in uniform, carrying guns, firing indiscriminately at the community, killing leaders and members of organizations and institutions like MAPASU and ALCADEV. These are institutions that actively defend Lumad ancestral lands against big business.
Today, 307 families or about 2,000 individuals have evacuated to Tandag City.
The community members brought with them the remains of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo.
They wait for assistance from the local government to act on this spate of killings.
We wait for this government, from the Department of Justice, to the Department of Interior, to the President himself, to speak on this violence against Filipinos, on Filipino land, by Filipino members of the military and paramilitary.
We wait and count the number of dead, and displaced, and disenfrachised, and disappeared, and tortured, and traumatized.
We wait and count the number of dead.
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Data in this article paraphrased from human rights organization Karapatan’s Urgent Alert report on the incident dated 3 September 2015, received via email from Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay, 3 September.