Tales of Atrocities Confront UN Prober in Davao

Feb. 19, 2007

By Tyrone A. Velez

DAVAO TODAY — They came from as far as Basilan, Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental. Some 30 people, who are families and survivors of extrajudicial killings and human-rights abuses presented their cases to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston who arrived in the city last Sunday as part of his 10-day visit to the country to investigate atrocities.

All in all, 20 cases from the six regions in Mindanao involving 33 violations — such as killings, frustrated killings, forced disappearances and harassments — were presented to Alston. Of the 20 cases, 10 came with testimonies. The presentation of cases were facilitated by Karapatan, the human-rights group.

During the presentation, which was sheld in an undisclosed venue in the city, families and survivors recounted the horrors they went through. At times, the testimonies were interrupted with tears. But Alston waited and listened intently to these stories.

“He is attentive and sensitive to the victims’ stories,” Kelly Delgado, secretary general of Karapatan Southern Mindanao who was among those who facilitated the presentation, told davaotoday.com.

One by one, Alston listened to the stories of atrocitiesw. One such story involved 75-year-old Somo Siggang, of Lawan-Lawan, Las Nieves town, Agusan del Norte, whose body was riddled with 43 bullets, believed to have been fired by soldiers, who later claimed that Siggang was caught in a crossfire between the military and the communist New People’s Army.

There were also the killings of peasant leaders Dalmacio Gandinao of Salay, Misamis Oriental, Hermelino Marqueza of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, and Seferino Enoc of Marilog District, Davao City. And the killings of union members of the Namasufa in the banana plantations of Compostela Valley.

These cases, according to the testimonies, were perpetrated mostly by armed motorcycle riding men, some wearing bonnets and fatigues.

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