Murder of Indigenous Peoples is murder of our culture

Sep. 22, 2015

Stop the paramilitary assault and killing of the Lumads

Justice for the lives of our indigenous leaders

Intramuros, Manila – The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the primary government arm dedicated to the preservation of Filipino culture, vehemently condemns any and all forms of violence continuously inflicted on our indigenous brothers and sisters in Mindanao, and in other parts of the country. The NCCA recognizes these indigenous peoples and their leaders as the core and the backbone of the country’s intangible cultural heritage. They are the bearers of our unique artistic traditions. Their murder is the murder of our peoples’ soul. As the living transmitters of time-tested knowledge systems, skills and practices, to wound them is to damage the cultural basis for the sustainable development of our nation.


On 18 August 2015, a brutal incident of Manobo killing haunted the municipality of Pangantucan, province of Bukidnon. Five Manobo farmers, Welmer Somina, Herminio and Jobert Samia, including two children Emer Somina, 17, and Norman Samia, 14, were shot by armed men. Their death was disguised as an armed encounter with the National Peoples’ Army.

On the early morning of 1 September 2015, members of the Manobo community in KM 16 Sitio Han-ayan in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were attacked by armed men. The assault of Belen Itallo and the torture and unwarranted death of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Juvello Sinzo were directed by paramilitary forces.

Samarca, 54, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Livelihood and Development (ALCADEV) in Surigao del Sur, was found dead with a slit on his neck in one of the classrooms of ALCADEV while one of the school staff, Itallo, survived the killing. Campos and Sinzo, notable Manobo leaders of Surigao del Sur, were shot dead in front of the community forcefully gathered in the KM 16 basketball court. Campos, 41, served as the Chairperson of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sumusunod (MAPASU) / Persevering Stuggle for the Next Generation, an organization of 23 Manobo communities in Surigao del Sur, while Sinzo, 69, also a member of MAPASU, was a Manobo tribal chieftain from the village of Kiwangan, in Lianga.

Samarca, Campos and Sinzo, along with the members of MAPASU and the staff of ALCADEV, and the five Manobo farmers of Bukidnon, were all staunch defenders of Manobo culture and their ancestral lands. Their deaths were but few of the many lumad deaths that have sprung from paramilitary violence in Mindanao.

In the previous years, there had been a sharp rise in the number of reports, cases, incidences and complaints of harassments, maltreatment and murder of IP leaders around the country. Since 2010, more than 68 cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples were recorded. There were 84 reported cases of attacks on community schools affecting lumad children. To date, the number of IP evacuees has peaked to 2,262 as per the last report of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayang ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU). The growing incidents of displacement and rising death tolls are result of the heightened imposition of military and paramilitary forces in the southern part of the country. As the government claims its military achievement of clearing out NPA infiltrated areas, it walks a carpet stained with lumad blood.

NCCA’s Statement:

The indigenous peoples who long for peace and lives of self-sufficiency in their resource-rich village communities have become innocent victims of development aggression. Their protests against the virtual occupation of their ancestral lands and school campuses by armed men have not been heeded. Their cries are met by the threat of guns and bombs. Lumads are made to fight against lumads.

With the Manobos who have come to Manila to seek help against the killings of their leaders, the IP groups who lobby for their rights and protection of their ancestral lands, the cultural communities who have been victims of harassment in any form, threats to life, torture and paramilitary violence resulting in unwarranted deaths — we mourn and stand together in our demand for justice. We are calling for the appropriate government agency’s outright response and action towards the unjust killing of the IP leaders in Mindanao and in other parts of the country.

The NCCA Chairman has directed its legal personnel and consultants to study how this agency could directly or through other means intervene for the protection of the Indigenous Peoples.

Let our worthy cultural heritage and authentic human development flourish in the communities and lives of our indigenous peoples. Stop the killing of IP leaders!

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