[Statement] On the killings of indigenous peoples in Lianga, Surigao del Sur -CTUHR

On the killings of indigenous peoples in Lianga, Surigao del Sur
September 3,2015

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights strongly condemns the brutal killings of Emerito Samarca, head of an alternative school (ALCADEV) for indigenous people, Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, both leaders of the Manobo tribe and an indigenous people’s (lumad)  organization, MAPASU (Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod). The killings perpetrated by suspected elements of the paramilitary group, Mahagat-Bagani happened between 4AM to 5AM of September 1 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Elements of the 36th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army are also present in the said area.

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The manner of ‘execution’ is appalling and hideous. Reports have come out that Campos and Sinzo were ‘executed’ in front of hundreds of community people who were roused from their sleep at 4AM of September 1 to witness the killing. Samarca was later found dead in one of the classrooms with a slit in his throat and stab in his stomach. The cruelty in the manner of killing the victims is characteristic of then notorious vigilante paramilitary groups like Alsa Masa, Ilaga in the 1970s to 1980s in Mindanao. These groups slaughter their targets and parade severed body parts of suspected rebels and sympathizers. It is equally reminiscent of the killings and torture inflicted upon activists and trade unionists by state security forces and vigilantes during the Marcos martial law years and the Cory Aquino administration. Clearly, the killings are meant not only to silence targeted individuals suspected as rebels or rebel-supporters.  It is also meant to ultimately sow fear in lumad communities, force them to flee, undermine their resistance against the intrusion of mining and plantation operations, and weaken their resolve to assert their right to self-determination.

We condemn these killings and many other human rights violations perpetrated by war-mongering Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and paramilitary groups that the AFP armed and cuddled.  The Aquino government has waged an all-out-war against the Filipino people especially the lumad communities. Under the pretext of counter-insurgency, over 50 battalions of AFP are deployed in the island of Mindanao to pave the way for and protect the expanding operations of the multinational mining and plantation companies committing human rights violations with impunity. The military also continues to hire and support paramilitary groups to divide the lumad communities creating internal strife between and among tribes and families.

The war for control over the rich natural resources of Mindanao facilitated by foreign investment-driven government economic policy has long-robbed the people of Mindanao, not just their resources, their  ancestral land, their culture, their peace,  but ultimately their lives. Moreover, the AFP has also encamped inside 146 schools of lumad communities initiated by various concerned institutions and non-government organizations (NGOs) who wanted to save and empower the lumad from government neglect. Thousands of children are affected. It is awfully ironic that teachers like Samarca are killed by state forces when the government itself has failed to provide education to poor and indigenous peoples.

The Aquino government continues to talk about peace, and does the opposite. The brutal killings of Samarca and two tribal leaders, are more than enough reason to say that genuine peace is clearly not in the government agenda.  The Aquino administration has also jeopardized peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) by violating Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) by targeting non-combatants and civilian communities. At least 17 NDF consultants provided with Joint Agreement for Security and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) protection have been arrested and detained for false criminal charges. What peace can be talked about, if the people advocating for it are continually persecuted?

CTUHR is alarmed that as the Aquino administration sees its term ending on June 30, 2016, its commitment to crush insurgency through Oplan Bayanihan, by peaceful means or by force to safeguard the so-called  economic development achievement of his “daang matuwid”, human rights violations will continue to escalate. Mindanao will continue to be targeted as government road maps for so-called “sustained economic growth”  through TNCs driven-mining and plantation-agriculture are anchored on the plunder of island’s resources and will displace and dispossess primarily the island’s indigenous communities.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights stands with the lumads and people of Mindanao for their fight against state terrorism, for genuine development and for self-determination. The Aquino government and the AFP should be brought to justice for its vicious and relentless crimes against the people.

Justice to Samarca, Campos, Sinzo and all victims of extra-judicial killings!
Stop the militarization of schools and communities in Mindanao!
Stop the Killings! End Oplan Bayanihan!

For reference: Daisy Arago, Executive Director, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, pie.ctuhr@gmail.com, +63.411.0256

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