DAVAO CITY – Children of victims of paramilitary killings in Surigao town urged President Benigno Aquino III to end the killings of indigenous peoples or Lumads.
During the indignation program at the Guingona Park in Butuan City Saturday, Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Manobo leader Dionel Campos, said she was dismayed that the government “does not treat us (lumads) as humans.”
For his part, Karlgen Samarca, eldest son of slain executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc (ALCADEV), Emerito Samarca, said “(I)t is the government that is pushing the people to take up arms because the number of victims of unjust killings is increasing. The victims are not just our fathers, but as well as hundreds of victims who were killed before them.”
“Mapugos ang katawhan tungod kay armado ang estado, armadong gipatay among ginikanan, armado usab ang mutapos niini (People are forced [to take up arms] because the state is armed. Our fathers were killed with arms, therefore only armed struggle will end this),” he said.
Karlgen lamented that even if his father helped to realize the dream of the Lumads to get free education, his father suffered and died without getting help from the government.
In news reports, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) said that the cause of the incident in Km.16, Barangay Diatagon, in Lianga town last September 1 was “a tribal conflict in within the context of counter insurgency.”
“That is, one group is affiliated with New People’s Army (NPA), while the other is an anti-NPA tribal group,” the Army said.
Both Michelle and Karlgen said that it is “unlikely for their fathers to have conflicts with other tribal members in the community.”
Karlgen described his father as someone who “does not [even] know how to get mad.”
He added that even his father’s colleagues could attest to his kindness.
“Even moments before he was killed, he calmly helped his co-workers to leave the area,” he said.
Michelle described her father as “a good leader” in their community.
Michelle recalled that when there are activities in Alcadev, her father encouraged other parents to support their children in their activities “to boost students’ morale.”
She added that one of the lessons she learned from her father was the importance of defending their ancestral domain.
“He said that it is the only treasure we can offer for the next generation,” Michelle said.
For its part, human rights group, Karapatan said the AFP’s claim “exonerates themselves from the killings.”
In a statement, Tinay Palabay of Karapatan said,”(t)hey are so quick to have their own findings with such a lame alibi to exonerate the army’s role in the political killings.”
With the army’s statement, Palabay concluded that the AFP “is [now] making the Lumads kill each other in the name of (President Aquino’s) Oplan Bayanihan.”
On September 8, witnesses of the said incident formally filed criminal charges against Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandrez, Kalpet Egua, and the witness-identified killers; the brothers Bobby and Loloy Tejero at the Surigao del Sur prosecutor office.
Karapatan said the identified suspects are members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani Force, which they claimed is led by Bocales.
The group said Bocales “also led the Task Force Gantangan, a civilian armed group formed by the Army as part of Oplan Bantay Laya .” Oplan Bantay Laya is the counter-insurgency campaign under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (davaotoday.com)