UCCP Bishops’ open letter to President Aquino

Dec. 08, 2012

Press release
7 December 2012

Justice for Jimmy Liguyon

H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines

H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III,

With heavy hearts, we write this letter appealing for your urgent action.  We ask you, Mr. President, how many more Indigenous Peoples from Barangay Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon, will you let die?

In 2012 alone, three UCCP members have been extra judicially killed at the hands of the New Indigenous Peoples Army Reform (NIPAR) and the Special Civilian Armed Auxilary (SCAA) of the 8th IB, Philippine Army.  Two brothers from Sitio Slide Abundio Mantugohan and Datu Erning Mantugohan were extrajudicially killed on January 11, 2012 and October 10, 2012 respectively.  The more well-known killing of Datu Jimmy Liguyon by Alde “Butsoy” Salusad occurred in Jimmy’s home on March 5, 2012.  Datu Jimmy Liguyon was both a Barangay Kagawad and the UCCP Dao Council Chair.

Mr. President, we appeal to your administration to swiftly restore order in Barangay Dao.

·  The warrant of arrest issued on April 30, 2012 for Alde “Butsoy” Salusad has not been served.  Meanwhile, we continue to hear reports that Butsoy Salusad roams freely throughout Barangay Dao and the greater San Fernando area armed with a Baby ArmaLite.  We appeal for an urgent investigation into why the Philippine National Police has failed to arrest Alde “Butsoy” Salusad.  Salusad should immediately be taken into custody.

· In reports coming from the ground, there is cooperation and connivance between NIPAR, headed by Alde “Butsoy” Salusad, and SCAA, headed by his father Benjamin Salusad.  Likewise in human rights violation reports, the paramilitary of both NIPAR and SCAA have been intermingled.  The recent killing of Datu Erning Mantugohan is another such incident, where the evening before his murder, Benjamin Salusad, leading men from SCAA and Indigo Anggawa from NIPAR, went to the house of Erning Mantugohon’s brother Cornelio.  They made death threats against Cornelio who was not home at the time.  In light of clear threats to Cornelio Mantugohan and other residents of Barangay Dao as well as a general atmosphere of fear and terror created by NIPAR and SCAA in the area, we appeal for immediate intervention to dismantle and disarm both NIPAR and SCAA.

· The gold mineral deposits in Barangay Dao do not justify lawlessness against the residents.  To this end, we urge you to uphold the human rights of the people who have determined that they do not want large-scale mining in their area.  Mining interests should not supersede concern for the environment and must not displace respect for human rights or the rule of law.  With the resulting impact of internally displaced people congregating near the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol in Malaybalay City, we urge your administration to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect land and send clear messages to our nation that the killings of Indigenous People’s must be ended.

The climate of impunity is only strengthened as warrants of arrest are not served, alleged perpetrators remain at large, and paramilitaries are permitted to make death threats, harass, intimidate and sow terror amongst the Indigenous Peoples in far-flung areas.

We, Bishops of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines tasked with being Shepherds of the Flock, are deeply concerned for the safety and welfare of our Church members and all the residents of Barangay Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon.

LIFE is more precious than GOLD!  We appeal for your urgent intervention in dismantling NIPAR and SCAA paramilitaries before more people are threatened, harassed or killed and in immediately arresting Alde “Butsoy” Salusad.

Justice for Jimmy Liguyon!

Sincerely yours,

Bishop Reuel N.O. Marigza, General Secretary
Bishop Jaime Moriles, West Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Elorde M. Sambat, North Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Dulce Pia-Rose, East Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Melzar D. Labuntog, North West Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Roel P Mendoza, Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Arturo Asi, South Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Modesto D. Villasanta, South East Mindanao Jurisdictional Area

Copy furnished:
Atty. Leila de Lima, Secretary, Department of Justice
Manuel A. Roxas II, Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government
Director General Nicanor A. Bartolome, Chief, Philippine National Police
General Jessie D. Dellosa, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces in the Philippines

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