“Not a single cent to the military monsters.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Groups led by the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) held a picket today, Sept. 8 at the South wing gate of the House of Representatives, to condemn the spate of killings which they blamed on the military and their adjuncts.
The groups said the string of killings of leaders and members of progressive organizations is reminiscent of the height of Oplan Bantay Laya, the bloody counterinsurgency campaign under President Gloria Arroyo, and of the dark days of Martial Law, which is commemorated this month.
The protest was timed for today’s congressional deliberations on the budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“The taxpayers’ money has been used to fund the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani forces, enabling them to kill Emerito Samarca, director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Dionel Campos, chairperson of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), and Datu Juvello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
Palabay said that this year, a spate of massacres of indigenous Lumads started in Mindanao: with three killed in Paquibato, Davao City in June; five – including two minors – killed in Bukidnon in August, and the killings in Surigao del Sur.
In August alone, 12 people were killed by suspected state forces, including Karapatan-Sorsogon’s spokesperson, Teodoro Escanilla, who was shot dead at his home in Barcelona, Sorsogon on Aug. 19. From July 2010 to June this year, Karapatan had documented 262 victims of extrajudicial killings.
Palabay called for the removal of Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), to whom she attributed the spike of attacks on the Lumad communities.
She stressed that Baladad headed the unit which arrested and tortured the “Morong 43,” in 2010. Another military official, Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, who now heads the Philippine Army, was implicated in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos in 2007.
“In 2006, these things that are now happening in Mindanao were also happening in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, and many parts of the country,” Palabay said. “Every week, there was a text message, a call about activists being killed, disappeared.”
Karapatan documented some 1,200 people killed during Arroyo’s time from 2001 to 2010.
“The AFP should pay for their crimes against the people and deserves not a single cent from the people’s money,” Palabay said.
“Who are the monsters?” said Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran) during the program. “And who is the father of the monsters? Nobody else but Gen. Baladad.”
Ogan spoke in reference to a statement by Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel, who had called the paramilitary groups “monsters created by the military.”
Eufemia Cullamat, a Mapasu council member and cousin of the group’s slain leader Campos, said the Magahat men entered the Han-ayan community along with soldiers of the 36th and 75th infantry battalion. “The paramilitary will not do such atrocities if the military wasn’t behind them,” she said.
Cullamat and other victims of the terror operations of the paramilitary men and soldiers joined the protest in front of Congress. Also with them was Campos’s 13-year-old daughter, Sheina.
“Since the time of Marcos, these paramilitary groups, usually recruited from among the indigenous peoples themselves, have been used as pawns to aid in the government’s dirty war against the people,” Palabay said.
“Aquino’s tuwid na daan (straight path) is a mat, soaked with the blood of the indigenous peoples,” said Kakay Tolentino of the Kalipunang ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu).
She said indigenous peoples suffered the worst under the past five years under Aquino, as military operations targeted communities which strongly defended their ancestral lands and resisted the entry of mining, logging and agribusiness operations.
The Lumad killings spurred support for Lumad communities from various sectors in the cities, specially from church-based groups.
Peasant and labor groups, such as Sulong Katribu partylist, Anakpawis partylist, UP Hotel Workers’ Union also joined the picket.
Also among the protesters were grade 10 students belonging to the Students’ Organization for Social Action from the St. Scholastica Academy Marikina.
“We believe that there should be justice. We are all Filipinos, we should be united,” said Cecilia Ricafort, 15, president of the student group. She said many students were moved at what happened in Alcadev, which is a partner school of St. Scholastica.
“It was unjust, because they were not doing anything wrong, why did they do that to them?” Ricafort said of the killings and attacks on the Lumad communities and schools.