DAVAO CITY – More than 500 indigenous peoples who are now staying at the Sports Complex in Tandag, Surigao del Sur are set to “reclaim” their community in Sitio Han-ayan in Lianga of the same province.
The IPs fled their community on September 1 last year after the killing of their community leader, Dionel Campos and executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc (ALCADEV), Emerito Samarca.
Residents who witnessed the killings tagged the members of paramilitary group Magahat Bagani as the perpetrators.
However, even with the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the suspects on September 8, no arrest has been made.
The killings, widely known as the Lianga Massacre, shook the country and even up to the overseas.
On August 24, several support groups from Caraga region spearheaded by Friends of Lumad and human rights group Karapatan Surigao del Sur visited the affected Lumad communities under the municipalities of Lianga and San Agustin to gather initial assessment on the community damages.
Based on their report, the visit “confirmed the presence of military encampments in the middle of the Lumad communities of Km. 9 and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) school compound in Sitio Han-ayan in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.”
“Because of this situation, leaders and members of the evacuated communities have decided to step up their campaign to claim their communities back from the soldiers in the encampments that are occupying them,” said Bishop Modesto Villasanta of Karapatan Surigao del Sur.
Villasanta said that during their visit, “all the houses were damaged, some vandalized, and deliberately burned down.”
Army official’s assurance
On August 30, some leaders of the Friends of Lumad had a dialogue with Col. Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the 402nd Infantry Brigade during their protest rally infront of the 402nd Brigade camp in Tandag City, who assured the Lumads’s safety upon their way home.
“Hindi kami magiging balakid na makabalik kayo sa inyong mga lugar lalo na sa sitio han ayan (We will not become obstacle on your way back to your communities,” said Purisima in video posted by Karapatan sa Caraga facebook page.
“The troops [of 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army] will be pulled out if necesary so that you can go back orderly,” Purisima added.
The return of the Lumads to their communities will be a weeklong series of activity which will be concluded with a community effort to rehabilitate and rebuild their homes on September 1 to September 5. (davaotoday.com)