Michelle Campos

(From left) Michelle Campos, daughter of tribal leader Dionel Campos who was among those killed in a massacre in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst, and Karapatan-Caraga coordinator Dr. Naty Castro. (Contributed photo)

DAVAO CITY — The daughter of the slain leader of the Manobo tribe in Lianga, Surigao del Sur met with United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst during the 31st UN Human Rights Council sessions held in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 2.

Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Lumad leader Dionel Campos was accompanied by Karapatan human rights workers including its secretary general, Cristina Palabay and Karapatan-Caraga coordinator Dr. Naty Castro.

In the said meeting, Campos narrated the September 1, 2015 killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, where her father, grandfather Datu Juvello Sinzo, and school director Emerito Samarca were killed before the whole community.

“Six months after the incident, not one of the three named perpetrators has been arrested. This is the kind of impunity that is perpetrated by the Aquino regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines – they do not arrest criminals in their ranks and among paramilitary groups. They even have drinking sprees with them,” Campos said, recounting her relatives’ experience on December 30, 2015 when they saw Loloy Tejero, one of the suspects at large in the Lianga massacre case, having a “drinking spree” with members of the 75th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army.

The killings resulted to the mass evacuation of villagers in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag and San Miguel.

Castro said that the more than 2,000 evacuees in Tandag, Surigao del Sur continue to suffer the consequences of such impunity.

“It is worrisome that the issues of increasing military operations in Mindanao, including indigenous peoples’ communities, and plunder of their ancestral lands remain low among the priority electoral issues among national candidates,” she said.

Palabay said they welcome Forst’s report in the 31st UN Human Rights Council on the cases of attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines delivered on March 3, 2016.

In the said report, Forst said he “considers the killings of Messrs. Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Bello Sinzo to be systematic of the aggressions suffered by human rights defenders in rural areas and indigenous communities in response to violations committed in the course of environmentally dubious mining operations, wide-spread development of monoculture plantations, land grabs and territorial disputes.”

He expressed regrets that there were reports of further killings in Mindanao after the September 1, 2015 massacre in Surigao del Sur. He urged the Philippine Government to “take every possible measure to ensure that these extrajudicial killings do not remain in impunity, for fear of the potential encouragement a lack of justice would provide for any potential perpetrators of such acts in the future.”

Forst also lamented the attacks against human rights workers of Karapatan, including the surveillance and intimidation of its members, as a result of their legitimate human rights activities and exercise of rights to freedom of expression and association.

In September last year, the relatives of the victims of the killings in Lianga also submitted the cases of human rights violations in their communities to  UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz.

The perpetrators of the killings are identified as members of the Magahat Bagani group.

The provincial governor of Surigao del Sur, Johnny Pimentel has repeatedly called on the government to disband the paramilitary forces because of the killings in the province. (davaotoday.com)

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