Uphold Indigenous People’s Rights, End the Militarization of their Communities!

September 5, 2015

lumadPhoto from arkibongbayan.org

Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) joins hands with sisters and brothers demanding justice for the recent brutal attacks against Lumad schools and communities in Mindanao, Philippines.

On September 1, 2015, Emerito “Tatay Emok” Samarca, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) was tortured and murdered in cold blood by members of the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani which is allegedly backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Members of the Lumad community were also made to witness the killing of Dionel “Onel” Campos, Chairperson of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), and his cousin Bello Sinzo by gun shots. The day before, the community cooperative beside the ALCADEV was burned allegedly by personnel from the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

ALCADEV is an alternative school established in 2004 by MAPASU with the help of several NGOs to provide education to Lumad communities not reached by government services. ALCADEV is APRN’s partner in an AECID-funded project titled Developing Capacities in Human Rights Education for Lumad in Caraga from 2011 to 2013 wherein APRN members together with ALCADEV teachers and students developed modules and conducted trainings on human rights. The school was conferred the National Literacy Award twice in 2001 and 2005, and was fifth place nationwide in 2014.

This attack is not an isolated case, rather, it is part of the systematic application of violence against the Lumads because of their resistance to the plunder of their ancestral lands within and surrounding the Andap Valley Complex. This area is targeted by large-scale mining corporations for its gold, coal, and chromite deposits. The deployment of military forces in their communities since 2005 has displaced thousands of Lumad families, including an estimated 3,000 Lumad children whose education have been severely disrupted due to attacks against tribal schools similar to ALCADEV.

These violations of indigenous peoples rights are escalating under the Philippine government’s program of ‘inclusive growth’, which echoes the same ‘inclusive growth’ agenda of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Under this agenda, APEC and ASEAN countries are seeking to intensify trade liberalization and attract foreign investments to promote rapid economic growth that supposedly will benefit all sections of the population. This is complemented by increased investment facilitation and protection that creates the impetus for governments to deploy military and paramilitary troops to protect foreign investment projects. In the Philippines, the Investment Defense Force (IDF) was formed under the AFP in 2008 to protect large-scale mining projects and agricultural plantations at the request of corporations. Since then, the IDF has been implicated in cases of human rights violations, including rape and harassment of women in tribal communities. This makes it clear whose interests are being protected in this agenda of inclusive growth wherein the lives of indigenous peoples are being sacrificed and their ancestral domains plundered in the name of ‘development’.

APRN supports the Lumads’ assertion of their rights in the face of development aggression being promoted by economic policies favoring big businesses. We are calling for support to Lumads’ calls to end the militarization of their communities and justice for Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo. The urgent alert below issued by local human rights group KARAPATAN contains detailed information on the incident and how to help in strengthening the call for justice.

URGENT ALERT
ALCADEV EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TWO LUMAD LEADERS KILLED BY
AFP UNITS AND ITS PARAMILITARY GROUP;
COMMUNITY MEMBERS FORCED TO EVACUATE

UA Date : September 3, 2015

UA Case : Extrajudicial killing, frustrated killing, threat and harassment,
forcible evacuation, use of schools for military purpose,torture,
divestment of property, destruction of property, indiscriminate firing

Victim/s :

EMERITO SAMARCA, 54, married with four children, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV); he was staff member of ALCADEV since its founding and became executive director in 2012. From 1990-1998, he worked with SILDAP-SIDLAKAN, a Lumad support institution in Caraga. He was also staff of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN) – KMP in the 1980′s.

DIONEL CAMPOS, of legal age, married, resident of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Chairperson, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU or Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation); He is the cousin of JALANDONI CAMPOS, a Lumad leader who has been falsely charged with criminal offense.

BELLO SINZO, of legal age, member of MAPASU and resident of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur

About 260 families/2,000 community members and residents of Han-ayan and Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur; and about 307 families from 10 communities in Diatagon, Lianga; three communities in Buhisan, San Agustin; and, one community in Caras-an, Tago, all in Surigao del Sur.

26 Faculty and staff members of ALCADEV and TRIFPSS (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur)

Place of incident : ALCADEV compound in Han-ayan and Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon,
Lianga, Surigao del Sur

Date of incident : September 1, 2015 at around 4 a.m.

Perpetrator/s : Elements of the 36th IB-PA under Lieutenant Colonel Aaron
Akas (who turned over command to Lt. Col. Randolph Roxas September 1);
Elements of the 75th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces of the Philippine Army; Elements of the paramilitary Magahat/Bagani Forces/Marcos Bocales group identified by eyewitnesses as Bobby Tejero and Loloy Tejero, among 18 others

ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT:

On September 1, at around 4 a.m., members of the AFP’s paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Force/Marcos Bocales group opened fire at Dionel Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo and a staff member of ALCADEV Belen Itallo in the presence of the community members in Km.16, Bgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Campos and Sinzo died instantly, while Itallo survived. The back of Campos’s head was blown off, as some witnesses believed armed men used M203 rifle to shoot him.

In the same morning, Emerito Samarca’s dead body was found in one of the classrooms in school compound of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development). Samarca is Executive Director of ALCADEV. His throat was slit open, with the cut that ranged from ear to ear.

The killing happened the day after the same paramilitary group burned down the community’s cooperative store.

Background of the case

On August 30, 2015, about 40 soldiers of the 36th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA), the 75th IBPA, Special Forces, and known members of the paramilitary group—who call themselves Magahat-Bagani Force/Marcos Bocales group—occupied the function hall and parts of the school grounds of the Aternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

It was the day after the commemoration of the school’s Foundation Day. While there were visitors who stayed behind after the event, most of the visitors had already left. Those who stayed behind saw for themselves the soldiers and members of the paramilitary group in the community.

During the military and paramilitary encampment, elements of the 36th IBPA, 75th IBPA, SF, and members of the Bocales group threatened the school’s faculty members, staff, and the community members that they will be massacred, unless they leave in two days. Soldiers also asked community members of the whereabouts of Reynaldo Campos, ALCADEV coordinator; Norma Ampis, TRIFPSS executive director; Dionel Campos, MAPASU Chairperson; and, two other TRIFPSS teachers. The armed men also confiscated all cellphones and cameras from the residents and ALCADEV staff and remaining visitors in the community.

The following day, on August 31, the community cooperative store of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) was burned down by the paramilitary group. The soldiers also fired indiscriminately around the community. Thus, on the same day, the residents decided to go to the nearby community in Km. 16 to bring their family to safety. Late afternoon of the same day, half of the soldiers were seen leaving Han-ayan going towards Km. 16.

As residents and teachers were leaving Han-ayan, 25 soldiers in full battle gear of the 75th IBPA and three to five members of the paramilitary group, remained in the community.

The armed men took and detained Samarca, executive director of ALCADEV. The people who were leaving the community last saw Samarca tied around the neck, hands, and feet. He was brought inside one of the classrooms in the ALCADEV compound. A community member, who initially accompanied Samarca, was forced to run after the armed men beat him.

By the evening of August 31, ALCADEV faculty members and most of the residents were already in Km. 16. At around 4 a.m. on September 1, soldiers went from house to house and ordered residents to get out of their houses and to proceed to the center of the community.

Campos and cousin Sinzo, ALCADEV staff Belen Itallo, who were at the house of Josephine Pagalan, were ordered to sit at the foot of the stairs. Pagalan is spokesperson of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (Kasalo Caraga or Organization of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in Caraga).

Some members of the paramilitary group said Itallo was seen in the company of the NPA in the mountains. Itallo, crippled by polio since childhood, reasoned out by showing her feet and saying it is not true because she has difficulty in walking. The armed men ordered Itallo to sit beside Campos. The community members were then ordered to “drop”. Immediately after, Bobby Tejero and brother Loloy Tejero, known members of the paramilitary group shot Campos on the head. Sinzo was also shot dead. Some 20 armed men fired indiscriminately around Campos, Sinzo and Itallo.

The community members saw the killing. Itallo, who ducked and just kept her eyes closed during the shooting, survived. The back of Campos’s head was blown off.

Later in the morning, the community members who went back to the ALCADEV campus found Samarca’s dead body. His throat was slit open, with the cut that ranged almost from ear to ear, his face bruised and almost unrecognizable.

At the time of the incident, most of the elements of the 36th IBPA and Special Forces were in Km. 9.

As of this writing, around 307 families of about 2,000 individuals have evacuated to Tandag City. They brought with them the remains of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo. They are awaiting assistance from the local government to act on the spate of killings perpetrated by the 36th IB-PA’s Magahat/Bagani Forces in their community and nearby barangays.

Since 2005, members of Mapasu and ALCADEV, who are active in the defense of Lumad ancestral lands against incursion by big business, have been victims of red tagging, trumped-up criminal charges, illegal arrests and detention, torture, and forced evacuation.

ALCADEV was established in July 19, 2004 as an alternative learning system especially designed to provide secondary education to indigent indigenous youth -the Manobo , Higaonon, Banwaon, Talaandig and Mamanwa – who live in the mountains of Surigao del Norte and Sur, Agusan del Norte and Sur. ALCADEV is born out of the joint efforts of indigenous peoples organizations in CARAGA region. MAPASU is a regional organization of indigenous people in Caraga and is well known for its strong stance against intrusion of mining companies in their communities.

The paramilitary group of Marcos Bocales, called Task Force Gantangan during the Arroyo regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya, may have changed its name into Magahat-Bagani Force. Despite the change in name however, the group continues to be armed and used by the military to sow division and terror among the Manobo-Lumad, using a worn-out trick of divide-and-rule. In 2014 alone, the group, under the auspices of the 36th IB-PA, was responsible for the killing of Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit; the burning of the vehicle of Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur (KAMASS) – KMP; and, the burning of the cooperative store and school in Kabulohan, Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur.

Recommended Action:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling on the BS Aquino government to:

1. Immediately pull-out the 36th, 75th IB-PA and Special Forces from the Lumad community and dismantle the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Force.

2. Create an independent body to investigate on the killings and other human rights violations perpetrated by the 36th and 75th IB-PA and its paramilitary forces, the Magahat/Bagani Force.

3. Persecute the perpetrators of the extrajudicial killing and other human rights violations committed against the residents of Han-ayan and Km. 16 in Bgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

4. To withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which continues to victimize innocent and unarmed civilians.

5. Remind the Philippine government that it is bound to observe, promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it is a signatory to and a party to all the major Human Rights instruments.

We also call on all human rights advocates to extend humanitarian support to the 2,000 evacuees who are now in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.
You may send your communications to:

1. H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace, JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph

2. Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
Email: osnd@philonline.com

3. Atty. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Philippines
Padre Faura St., Manila, Philippines
Direct Line 521-1908
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.211/214
Fax: (+632) 523-9548
Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph, lmdelima.doj@gmail.com, lmdelima.doj2@gmail.com

4. Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, (+632) 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
E-mail: comsec@chr.gov.ph

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org
Website: www.karapatan.org