DAVAO CITY – Formal charges were filed against identified perpetrators of the killing of a school director, and two Lumad leaders in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur.

Witnesses formally filed criminal charges against Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandrez and Kalpet Egua before the Surigao del Sur prosecutor office morning of Tuesday. The three reportedly led the attack in the KM.16 at Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town that also resulted to the evacuation of almost 3,000 residents. Twenty other John Does were included in the complaint.

The charges include cases of multiple murder, robbery, grave threat and coercion.

Early morning on September 1, the tribal force believed to be members of the Magahat Bagani Force arrived ordering residents, mostly Manobo, to vacate their houses and gather outside.

Witnesses said militiamen looked for the leaders of the local indigenous peoples group Mapasu (Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod), and his cousin, also a tribal leader Datu Juvello Sinzo. Both men were killed in front of the residents. Residents said the perpetrators left after killing the two.

Emerito Samarca, the school director was later found dead inside the faculty room of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev).

In a statement to the press, human righs group Karapatan in Caraga said the complainants from the communities, who are also among the evacuees at the Surigao del Sur Sports Complex in Tandag City, “felt the urgent need to file these cases and despite misgivings, voluntarily talked with local authorities, including investigators from the Provincial (Philippine National Police), to provide information and assist in the immediate arrest of the perpetrators.”

The complainants were assisted by volunteer lawyers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) headed by Surigao del Sur chapter president, Atty. Kutz Melvin Montenegro and the Union of Peoople’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) members Atty. Antonio Azarcon and Atty. Gerardo Maglinte.

“The communities, human rights organizations and advocates are doing our part so that the criminals can be arrested immediately and the evacuees can return safely to their communities,” said Eliza Pangilinan, secretary general of Karapatan Caraga.

Pangilinan said they urge the authorities “to do their part so that the killing rampage of these armed paramilitary groups can be immediately stopped.”

“The ball is now in their hands,” she said.

Pangilinan said the killing of Campos, Samarca and Sinzo bring the number of paramilitary and military killings to 21 victims, nine of whom are indigenous peoples, since 2014.

“This is the most number of killings in Caraga that Karapatan has documented within an 18-month period since the time of Gloria Arroyo. This is the uncontrollable monster that the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan spawned into the mountain communities in Surigao del Sur,” she said.

Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel appealed to Army Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri to disband the paramilitary troops. He said the militias were trained by the Army.

Pimentel also said problem of the evacuees with the militias has been a “perennial” problem in the province. (davaotoday.com)

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