MILITANT youth groups on Friday “stormed” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City (Metro Manila) to condemn the killings of indigenous people or lumad in Mindanao, which the leftist groups blamed on the military.
Led by Anakbayan and the League of Filipino Students (LFS), the protesters vandalized the concrete fence and Gate 1 of the camp by hurling paint bombs and spray-painted them with the word “AFP berdugo” (AFP executioner), “Mamamatay tao” (murderer).
Sought for reaction, Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, said the protest rally was part of freedom of expression and democracy.
He, however, added that while the protesters have the right to express themselves and their grievances, “these do not give them the freedom to destroy government property.”
‘That’s was part of freedom of expression and democracy but they should not be destructing or vandalizing government property,” Detoyato said.
Although the protesters can be charged with malicious mischief or the “willful damaging of another’s property for the sake of causing damage due to hate, revenge or other evil motive,” he added that the AFP may not be taking legal action against them.
“It’s tolerable. But we have to spend some money for the repainting of the vandalized concrete fence and steel gate,” Detoyato pointed out.
The youth groups are protesting the killing on September 1, 2015 of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo and blamed the so-called Magahat/Bagani, a paramilitary group in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Militants believed the group is being backed up by the military.
Samarca was the executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), a self-initiated school for the lumad while Campos was chairman of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu).
Sinzo was the cousin of Samarca.
Samarca was found dead with a stab wound in the body inside one of the classrooms in the school compound in Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Campos and Sinzo were shot and killed by armed men, some three kilometers away from the school.
The Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion earlier disowned the militia group.
“Wala kaming ganyan [Magahat/Bagani]. We don’t allow such group. The only troops na meron kami yun Cafgu, naririnig nyo naman yung Cafgu, saka yung typical infantry units, yung infantry battalion. Other than that bawal na. It’s against the law that they are arming themselves [We don’t have such group. The only troops that we have is the Cafgu, you heard about the Cafgu right? And we have the typical infantry units, the infantry battalion. Other than that is already prohibited. It is against the law to arm themselves],” said Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, Public Affairs Officer of the 4th IB.
He cried foul for linking the assailants to the Army even as he dared the accusers to file charges in court.
“We urge them to file charges against these people and we will fully [cooperate]. But to link us to the crime and accuse us as the handlers of the group, we will have a problem on that because we don’t know these people,” Martinez said.