DAVAO CITY – An organization from Belgium has expressed its concern on the killings of Lumads in Mindanao and expected the government to investigate the involvement of soldiers in the killings.
The Belgian group, Solidagro wrote a letter last Tuesday to Ambassador Victoria Bataclan saying that the victims of the killings in Surigao del Sur last week were “related to the development support program” of the group.
Last September 1, school director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Emerito Samarca was killed by suspected members of the Magahat Bagani Force inside the school compound. The Alcadev is one of the partners of Solidagro said General Coordinator, Jan Vanhuysse.
Alcadev is an agricultural school for the indigenous students in the area, which won the Regional Literacy Contest in Caraga last year and ranked fifth in the National Literacy Award.
“Sadly, the emancipation of indigenous youth, resulting, amongst others, in their critical stand against destructive mining activities, is tackled with militarization, violence and repression,” said Vanhuysse.
Also killed during the attack of the militia group were community leader Dionel Campos who heads the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), and his cousin Datu Jovello Sinzo.
Vanhuysse also said they are expecting the government to act on the killings and investigate the alleged involvement of the Army.
“Although many of the earlier extrajudicial killings and disappearances in the Philippines have not been resolved until today, leading to a climate of impunity, we expect the Philippine government to immediately and thoroughly investigate the killings and the involvement of the AFP, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Vanhuysse.
Army officials have previously stated that they will also be conducting their own investigations on the allegations that militias were seen inside Army camps in the area.
Capt. Alberto Caber had previously described what happened as “crimes in the community” which was a retaliation of one group against the other.
Caber said it is not true that they are supporting the tribal forces.
“There are groups and individuals who are anti-lawless groups, anti-communists. But if you are anti, are you immediately (supported) by the military? No,” said Caber in an interview with Davao Today.
Caber said Army commanders can only command government troops under their command.
One of the witnesses, Josephine Pagalan, spokesperson of Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon (Unity of Lumad Organizations), in an interview with Davao Today said that on August 30, members of the Army arrived first in their area even before the Magahat forces came.
Pagalan said the military “cannot deny their involvement in the atrocities.”
Meanwhile, Vanhuysse also appealed to the Philippine Ambassador to “ensure the safety of our staff and that of our partner organizations in your country.”
Vanhuysse said they have also sent letters to the Belgian Foreign Affairs Department, the Belgian Embassy in Manila and the European Union representation in Manila.
Solidagro has been working with Philippine NGOs for more than three decades. Vanhuysse said they implement “a food security program, funded by the Belgian government (DGD), in the Cordillera, Masbate, Samar and the Caraga region.” (davaotoday.com)