DAVAO CITY — Two members of the Army and an identified member of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group were accosted for taking footages of the funeral of massacre victims in Surigao del Sur on Sunday.
In a report by Kodao productions, Sergeant Rudy Ramoso and Private First Class Ryan Alor of the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion and Gregorio Cabaso were caught taking photos and videos of Lumad leaders and supporters during the burial of Dionel Campos, chairperson of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), his cousin Manobo datu (tribal leader) and Juvello Sinzo.
Eliza Pangilinan, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan-Caraga said a caliber .45 pistol was confiscated by from the three along with their cameras and memory cards.
Pangilinan said there were three others who were able to evade being accosted by the marshals and security officers.
Campos and Sinzo were killed September 1 in Kilometer 16, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur with Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) by suspected members of the the Magahat-Bagani.
Campos and Sinzo were killed in front of the public while Samarca was hogtied, stabbed and his throat slit ear to ear. The killings resulted to the evacuation of nearly 3,000 villagers to Tandag City.
Samarca was laid to rest Saturday in Butuan, while Campos and Sinzo were buried in Surigao del Sur last Sunday along with Reynalyn Enriquez, a four-year old who died in the evacuation center.
Meanwhile, the killing of the three further evoked questions on the responsibility of the armed forces as Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel himself said that the Magahat-Bagani “is a monster created by the military.”
In a debate on a national news network Monday night, Lieutenant Colonel Jake Obligado, Chief Information Officer of the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said “there is no paramilitary.”
Obligado said the Magahat is “an organization of the lumad themselves, organizations of former NPAs (New People’s Army) who rebelled against the rebels.”
Asked by the show’s host if the groups are armed, Obligado said “it is up to the tribe because it is part of their culture.”
Obligado said the military are just in the community to “come-in and drive away the NPA” as he said access to the government’s programs for the poor are “hampered.”
On Tuesday, Datu Malapandaw Nestor Apas of the Langilan Manobos in Davao del Norte, Datu Marcial Belandres and Datu Rico Macat appeared in a press conference at the Army headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
Apas claimed that “no government forces” were in the area and that it was the “NPAs who want to control our ancestral land.”
Apas said it was the NPAs who “had their comrades killed so that the government will get the blame.”
Belandres alleged that the Alcadev is an “NPA school which taught communist ideals, gun and combat” to its students.
Meanwhile, Senator Teofisto Guingona, in a privilege speech before the Senate last Monday called for an onsite investigation on the incident.
Guingona said he has information that the group, which he calls “gangster” carry high-powered rifles and were “extorting” in some villages in the neighboring town of Barobo.
He said Pimentel already told the police to act on the incident, but they refused saying it was a “military matter.”
“Why are people who are not members of the police, who are not members of the military, going around with high-powered firearms, shooting people, torturing people, knocking on doors, extorting from citizens?” said Guingona.
Senator Loren Legarda, who interpellated Guingona, said that in 1999 she was able to visit Barangay Diatagon and said “it is a logging area.”
“It is also a mining province. Is it possible that these paramilitary forces are created by such logging or even mining interests?” Legarda said.
Guingona said he is not sure about the involvement of Campos and Sinzo, but Samarca “is certainly not against mining, they are just there to help the community and provide education to the community.”
With regards the presence of the NPAs in the area, Legarda said she has information which indicated that the area is “not a seat of NPA activities.”
“And even assuming, that they are NPA sympathizers, assuming that their ideology is akin to those of the New People’s Army, such violence is still not warranted. It does not matter. Even NPAs are not deserving of such brutality,” said Legarda.
The privilege speech of Guingona as well as two previous resolutions of Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, and a resolution of Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., were referred to the committee on rules to determine which committee should handle the investigation.
Meanwhile, television and movie actress Angel Locsin who visited the area in 2009, in her social media account, said she was “saddened” by the killing of Samarca and the two others.
Locsin posted a photo of Samarca whom Locsin called “Tatay Emok” and Campos who she called “Kuya Dionel” in her instagram Tuesday.
“Nakakalungkot na isipin na ganito ang sinapit nila, na ang kagustuhan lang naman nila ay magandang edukasyon para sa mga anak nila at sa susunod na henerasyon at maayos na pamumuhay. (It is sad that this happened to them. They only wanted good education and a good life for their children and the next generation),” she said.
Locsin said the children were “kind and shy” and that she was amused of the zero crime rate of the area.
“Nakita ko kung paano sila nagtutulungan bilang isang komunidad at kung paano nila pinagsisikapan ang kanilang mga pangarap. Ramdam ko kung paano nila pinapahalagahan ang kanilang paaralan at komunidad, ang nutrisyon, kalusugan, ang kalikasan, at kapwa tao (I saw how they helped each other as a community and how they persevered for their dreams. I felt how they valued education, their community, nutrition, health, the environment and other people),” she said.
The actress said she remembered how she had to hide inside a pick-up truck to successfully go through many military checkpoints even if they were escorted by the Mayor himself.
“Nalaman namin na kahit silang mga taga-roon ay mas hinihigpitan pa sa pagpasok sa sarili nilang lugar (Even the residents were strictly screened before they can enter their own community. Do they have to ask permission to enter their own yutang kabilin (ancestral domain),” she said.
Locsin has other questions such as “why are there paramilitary?” and “if schools are sanctuaries why is there military presence where the children can be caught in the crossfire and have fear – not to mention the adverse psychological effects to children?”
Locsin said that during their last night in Alcadev, they promised to share their stories to many more people.
The actress also said she is “one with the call to respect their (Manobo) culture and rights and I believe that schools should be centers of learning and that it is a sanctuary and the presence of the military is not allowed.”
“I also call for justice for those who were killed,” she said.(davaotoday.com)