Reply to President Aquino’s hand-washing on the recent Lumad killings

(Photo from Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command PR shows Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad being conferred a lumad tribute by lumads linked to the AFP)

(This is the statement of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao Region on President Benigno Aquino III’s response to the militarization and killings in Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon and other areas in Mindanao. You can visit their website at http://www.rmp-nmr.org/)

Instead of ordering an investigation, the president, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gives a careless statement when he said, “There is no campaign to kill anybody in this country. There is a campaign to go after everybody who commits crimes, regardless of who they are.”

His pronouncement is both a denial of what is going on, and at the same time an accusation targeted at the victims butchered by the government forces and supporting paramilitary minions.

While the public document of the government’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, dubbed “Bayanihan,” does not have a word on the killing rampage of the AFP, the president’s statement of full support and endorsement of the Investment Defense Forces – formally the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) and informally the paramilitary groups – is a standing order for the military’s guiding principle. At the core of the military’s actions is the interest to protect business firms – not the people it has sworn to protect.

If President Aquino says the campaign is to go after a person “who commits crimes” and dismisses the killings as justified actions of the military, then he is implying that those massacred and murdered by his forces were criminals. His statement is consistent with the military’s claim that they have been going after members of the New People’s Army, a statement that has been exposed to be a lie by the communities they have targeted and by the people who have seen their smears in the aftermath of their slaughter (see: Fact-Finding Mission Report on the Pangantucan Massacre).

The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) is an award-winning educational institution that has a special curriculum on agriculture, technical and vocational skills. One of the victims of the recent spate of killings is ALCADEV’s executive director, Emerito Samarca. Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) is an organization of the Manobo community in Surigao del Sur, which has been launching campaigns based on the stand of its members – the primary need to protect their ancestral domain from investments that have long been trying to get ahold of their resources. One of those killed was the head of this organization, and the other his cousin also a member of this group. They were serving the people. Yes, serving the people does not entail killing any of the citizens. Those serving the people were the ones killed. The government killed them.

Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM
Coordinator, RMP-NMR Inc

Four-year old Manobo dies of illness in Tandag evacuation

(photo of Manobo girl sleeping at Tandag Sports Comples/ courtesy of Kilab Multimedia)

A Manobo couple, who joined thousands to flee their residence, lost a daughter after she fell ill inside the provincial sports center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur early Tuesday morning.

Rinabel, 4, the youngest daughter of the couple Maribel and Rexan Enriquez, died at around 3:00 a.m.

Maribel, in previous news reports, said her daughter had asthma and was “really sick” on Monday.

Julieto Trinidal, 29, who teaches multi-grade in the Tribal Filipino Program for Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) in San Agustin told Davao Today that Rinabel was one of their students in day care.

“Diri lang nigrabe ang sakit sa bata (The child’s sickness worsened here),” he said, referring to the evacuation center shared by almost 3,000 other evacuees.

Trinidal also lamented that they worry where to get the medicines for their children.

Read more of this account in Davao Today’s story http://davaotoday.com/main/human-rights/parents-lost-youngest-daughter-in-evacuation-center-in-surigao-del-sur-2/

Save Our Schools also call for kind donations such as medicines, food, water, sleeping materials for some 2,400 Manobo evacuees now in Tandag, Surigao del Sur.

How to help the Manobo evacuees

Calls for support to the Manobo communities driven out from their communities by the paramilitary murders of their leaders have increased in recent days.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which has community schools in lumad areas in Mindanao, call out to the Catholic groups to support the alternative learning schools and call for the end of militarization in Mindanao.

“We encourage different sectors especially the church people to join and support in condemning the continuous attack to Lumad communities and their alternative learning schools. We challenge the Aquino government to immediately act and stop the political killings, harassment and militarization not only in Surigao del Sur but the whole Mindanao region.” said RMP National Coordinator Sr. Francis Añover, RSM, who is also a Mindanaoan.

Añover also appealed to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to condole with the Manobo evacuees. “We also urge the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to condole with the victims by condemning the offense and the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan.”

Meanwhile, Manila Bulletin columnist and blogger Tonyo Cruz wrote about things the public can do to help the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, as suggested by Karapatan:

1. Ask President BS Aquino, the military’s commander-in-chief, to immediately order the withdrawal of military forces from all Manobo Lumad communities, houses, and schools so that the displaced communities could return home.

2. Call for an end to displacements, abductions, killings, and massacres of Manobo Lumads, and for an independent investigation into the tragic incidents.

3. Call for the prosecution of the perpetrators.

4. Call for abolition of Magahat Bagani, Alamara, and other “vigilante” groups.

5. Ask for the resignation of Rep. Catamco as chair of the House Committee on Indigenous Peoples, and for her investigation over the June 23 attack on UCCP Haran.

6. Seek an end to the “Oplan Bayanihan” counter-insurgency program for targeting civilians and civilian communities.

‘These people are acting like gods’: Disarm, disband militia, Surigao del Sur gov demands as evacuees near 3,000

“The Army helped in creating this militia group then they should find means to stop and put an end to them.” – Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel

Pimentel brushed the military’s professions aside, saying: “It would be hard for the Army to deny that they know these people because members of this Bagani force have been seen within their headquarters. We have seen this militia group carry between 20 to 30 high-powered firearms … where did this tribal group get their assault rifles and ammunition? Why allow this group to just walk around carrying such firearms?”

“We are appearing inutile as we are helpless to do anything. These people are acting like gods.”

Read Gov. Pimentel’s stand on this issue of paramilitary troops in Surigao del Sur here ‘These people are acting like gods’: Disarm, disband militia, Surigao del Sur gov demands as evacuees near 3,000

After killings, Manobos abandon villages

Soldiers, who introduced themselves as members of the Army’s 36th and 75th Infantry Battalions (IBs), and the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group, massed up in the village around 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

“This group was more agitated and scary. They went inside the houses without requesting permission from residents and went through our belongings. The soldiers then ordered everyone to gather near our father’s wake,” Imelda Belandres said… “They ordered us to walk towards Kilometer 16 and we have to follow because they were armed. We were scared that they will kill us,” Belandres said. On the dirt road, they were surrounded by the soldiers and militias.

“When we reached Kilometer 16, they told us not to move an inch or we will be killed. One of the soldiers introduced himself as a certain Bebot Bigante Brital of the 75th IB and he lectured us that we should not complain about mining companies coming in our lands because they will give us money,” Belandres said.

“Many of the residents tried to argue explaining that we were civilians. While this was happening, they suddenly grabbed Dionel Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo. It happened too fast. They opened fire not far from us. It was very close to our feet. So we dove for cover. After the firing stopped, we saw the dead bodies. There were blood, flesh and human brain on the ground. They killed them,” Belandres said.

Read more of Imelda’s narrative on what happened in Han-ayan in this article (click article to open) After killings, Manobos abandon villages

Statement: Attacks on Mindanao Lumad schools and communities intensify as Aquino’s military goes berserk for Oplan Bayanihan

The last year of the Benigno S. Aquino presidency has meant a bloodbath for indigenous peoples and for Lumad education, two months after his State of the Nation Address where he gloated of figures that have purportedly addressed classroom shortages and increased the quality of Philippine education.

Emerito ‘Tatay Emok’ Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc. (ALCADEV) and a convenor of the Save Our Schools Network was killed by government-backed indigenous paramilitary forces. His body was found lying in a pool of blood, with stab wounds on his neck, and his throat slit. While Dionel Campos, chairperson of MAPASU (Persevering Struggle for Future Manobo Generations), and his cousin Aurelio “Bello” Sinzo, were strafed dead before the terrified community of Han-ayan, Lianga town, Surigao del Sur province.

The paramilitary group Magahat— armed, controlled, and commanded by the 36th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army— burned down the school cooperative building and threatened to massacre the entire community if they would not leave the area two days before the killing of the Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo in the morning of September 1, 2015.

The dastardly crime which was perpetrated at dawn and later carried out in broad daylight, terrified the erstwhile peaceful Manobo school and community. As of this writing, the number of evacuees in Caraga has swelled to 2,000 individuals or 500 families coming from the municipalities of San Miguel and Lianga, with some 70 families still lost in nearby forests.

The Philippine military’s attack on ALCADEV using indigenous paramilitaries is by far the gravest and most vicious violation of indigenous peoples’ right to education and constitutes a wholesale violation of children’s rights. Moreover, as schools are an integral part of communities, the attack is an open declaration of the Philippine state’s war of annihilation against people’s organizations and communities resisting foreign largescale plunder of ancestral domains.

The 36th IB Philippine Army-Magahat rampage at the ALCADEV School shows that the Aquino government has dropped all pretenses of adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments. It also demonstrates the irrefutable crimes of the Philippine Army against indigenous children which the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and the Armed Conflict has continually glossed over, understated, or consistently concealed in its annual reports.

The Philippine government’s attacks on the ALCADEV School clearly shows its contempt towards self-determined development asserted by indigenous communities. Alternative Lumad schools are pushing for their own culturally-relevant pedagogy that liberates indigenous peoples from the yoke of institutionalized discrimination and corporate plunder of ancestral lands.

These Ethnocidal attacks on indigenous education, indigenous leaders and their staunch advocates and supporters are but the latest in a string of Aquino’s orders to tighten the noose on Lumad schools:
1.Since April of 2014 up to present, 25 Lumad schools and community schools were forced to halt operations for the entire month of June due to harassment by the AFP and sanctioned by the Department of Education (DepEd).
2.At least 84 cases of attacks on 57 community schools have displaced and disrupted the education of over 3,000 Lumad children.
3.Three (3) minors were brutally killed by the elements of 3rd Company of the 1st Special Forces Battalion under the ground commander Capt. Balatbat with Col. Nasser Lidasan as Battalion Commander on August 19, 2015 in Pangatukan town, Bukidnon province. They were part of 5 Manobo tribals strafed and killed on suspicion of being NPA combatants.
4.The schooling of Lumad children under the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur was disrupted when residents of Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur were displaced. The victims were killed by an armed group led by Hasmin and elements of the 36th IBPA.
5.A Lumad child was among 14 farmers in White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon who were illegally detained and arrested by elements of 8th IB ug 23rd IB headed by Nicolas Rivera and an official named Tocmo. All were accused as members of the New People’s Army in contrast to the fact that they are members of organizations Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Culaman ( NAMABAW) and Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Arakan (TIKULPA). The Army threatened to burn down the MISFI-run (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated) school which offers 7th and 8th grade education in Sitio Dao, Bukidnon.
6.Adding to these abuses is the ongoing mass evacuation of the Talaingod people in Davao City since April of this year due to intensified military operations and threats from the terrorist paramilitary group ALAMARA. Around 1, 000 individuals from San Fernando Bukidnon, Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte have sought sanctuary at UCCP Haran, Davao City. Learners from STTICLC in Talaingod have been holding their classes at the refugee camp since the evacuation started.

The Aquino government should be held accountable for all these violations. It is responsible for the formation and arming of the paramilitary groups, the paving the way for the enty of largescale destructive projects in the ancestral domains, the sowing of disunity among IPs, and the killings that have claimed the lives of many.
The Save Our Schools Network demands Justice for Samarca, Campos, Sinzo and all victims of human rights abuses! End all forms of attacks on schools and communities!

Prof. Mae Fe Templa, RSW, MSW
Convenor, Save Our Schools Network

Stop the killings in Mindanao

Government authorities are accountable for attacks on Lumad schools!

We, the Save Our Schools Network condemn in strongest possible terms the recent attacks on schools in Brgy. White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon and the killings of Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development), a lumad school in Surigao del Sur, and two (2) others, by members of MAGAHAT paramilitary forces yesterday, September 1 at the ALCADEV Compound in Km 16, Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The act of killing was also witnessed by teachers and students of ALCADEV who were roused from their dormitories about 4:00 in the morning.

WE DEMAND JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY! The continuing use of this paramilitary forces by the AFP in their counter-insurgency have gravely cost not just the children’s right to education, but also the lives of children, IP leaders, educators and human rights defenders not only in CARAGA and Southern Mindanao Region but all over Mindanao.

Further, the recent systematic attacks on MISFI Academy and a daycare center, and other human rights violation in Barangay White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon perpetrated by combined forces of 23rd and 8th Infantry Battalions have caused great alarm and displacement among indigenous people last August 25 to August 30, 2015.

We demand an immediate investigation on complaints of illegal arrests and detention of 14 people, forced surrender of nearly all male residents of Barangay White Culaman Sentro, destruction of school properties, threats of burning the school, and the use of about 20 students as human shield during military operation.

These shameless acts of the State Armed Forces puts the children and all of the civilians at risk, violating not just our own Philippine laws but also international covenants, the UNCRC, UDHR, Geneva Protocols and the like. The incessant attacks among indigenous peoples are becoming more vicious targeting even our most vulnerable and defenseless sectors as Oplan Bayanihan nears its end.

As the 2016 election is drawing near, we urge the congress, the senate and even the presidentiables to hear these complaints and act upon it. Thus, the pending call of our senators to conduct a senate inquiry regarding the cases of attacks on school should be realized.

We call on the prosecution of all violators of children’s rights and an end to this continuing impunity.

STOP military attacks on schools here in Mindanao!

DISBAND all paramilitary groups!!

JUSTICE for all victims of military atrocities!

dionel_emok

Lumad school head, two lumads killed by paramilitary in Surigao del Sur

(Right: Dionel Campos, Mapasu chair; Left: Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of Alcadev, photos from Karapatan Caraga)

Paramilitary members roused the Manobo community of Brgy. Lianga in Diatagon, Surigao del Sur last Monday dawn and killed the head of an alternative school, a lumad leader and his cousin in front of them.

Reports from Interaksyon and Karapatan Caraga said the lumad paramilitary Magahat/Bagani Force executed Mapasu leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo in front of the residents including the Manobo students. Later, the students saw Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture & Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) , dead inside the school compound with his neck slashed and stomach stabbed. (Read Interaksyon’s story here)

The school and community was earlier occupied by the military and were threatened to leave their village or they will be massacred.

Activist groups and support groups including Save Our Schools conducted rallies nationwide to call for justice for the killing of the three persons and for the pullout of troops and paramilitary in lumad communities.

 

15 Farmers including minor in Kitaotao arrested, Misfi school threatened

Fourteen farmers including a mother and her 12-year old son in the village of White Culaman in the town of Kitaotao, Bukidnon were forcibly taken by soldiers last August 25 and brought by helicopter to their headquarters in Cagayan de Oro the next day.

The village chief (barangay captain) was reported to have support the arrests, and also was heard to have ordered the closure of the Misfi Academy school located in Sitio Dao.

This incident was reported by the farmers group Kahugpongan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Kitaotao (KMK). The group’s spokesperson Isidro Indao said the soldiers alleged the farmers were rebels.

For more of the story read here

Salugpongan principal testifies at House committee hearing

Salugpongan Community Learning Center principal Ronnie Garcia testified last August 14  at the House Committee on Human Rights hearing held in Davao City on militarization of their schools in Davao del Norte, as he urges the pullout of military from the Lumad communities for the peace of the schoolchildren.

Garcia said the military encampment in their schools started in 2011 in their campus in Sitio Dulian, Davao del Norte and had since spread to other campuses until 2014.  No encampments were recorded this year but harassment and pressure have been felt by red-tagging the school and forcing some of the parents to stop sending their children to these schools.

Read more of the story as reported  by Mindanews here