“General Iriberri, your fellow Surigaonons are being slaughtered in the military’s implementation of counter-insurgency operations.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Alternative tribal schools in Surigao del Sur called on Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Irriberi to conduct a probe on Philippine Army units implicated in the Sept. 1 killing by a paramilitary group, amid denials by AFP officials of any military involvement.
In a joint statement, the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) and the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (Trifpss) said the AFP should “truthfully investigate” the Philippine Army’s 75th and 36th infantry battalions and the Special Forces, in connection with the killings in Diatagon village, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Slain by the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani Force were: Alcadev executive director Emerito Samarca; Dionel Campos, chairperson of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu); and, Datu Juvello Sinzo.
“General Iriberri, your fellow Surigaonons are being slaughtered in the AFP’s implementation of counter-insurgency operations,” Alcadev and Trifpss called on the AFP chief, who hails from Catilan, Surigao del Sur.
The groups also called for the immediate disbandment of the bandit paramilitary groups of Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandres and Calpet Egua, which include the Magahat-Bagani forces.
Various military officials have made pronouncements attributing the killings to “tribal conflict,” allegedly caused by the strong presence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the area.
Without any investigation, Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), declared that the military had nothing to do with these bandit groups. “These statements along with the assertion that the killings could have been prevented if the military were there, are added insults to a grieving people, the victims of their atrocities,” the groups said.
After the killings, almost 3,000 Lumads from four Surigao del Sur municipalities have evacuated to Tandag City for fear of more attacks, amid continued military operations.
“We stand by the testimonies of the witnesses, community members and teachers, more than a hundred of them,” said the statement.
“They were there when the military and the paramilitary threatened to massacre them if they do not leave their community. They were the ones wakened early in the morning and ordered to get out of their houses, of their dormitory,” the groups said.
Mapasu leaders who survived the attack said that soldiers of the 36th and 75th IB and Special Forces were the first to arrive and encamp in the community on Aug. 29. The Magahat men attacked at dawn of Sept.1 while soldiers were still in the area. The paramilitary men were also in military uniform, like the soldiers, but they were able to identify some of the Magahat leaders, because their faces were not covered, unlike some of the other armed men.
“The military was not exercising their mandate of ‘protecting the people’ last Sept. 1,” the statement said.
The two schools have received recognition from the Department of Education (DePEd), and won regional literacy awards. Last year, it was fifth finalist in DepEd’s National Literacy Award.
“We have received praises from peoples and organizations from other countries and parts of the Philippines who have visited and observed the schools and teachers,” said the statement. Among these is St. Scholastica’s College in Manila run by the Order of St. Benedict (OSB), which had been Alcadev’s sister school in the past six years.
“Despite these accolades, our administrators are hunted and killed by the military and paramilitary,” said the groups. “During military operations, Trifpss and Alcadev teachers and tribal schools have been targeted, burned, vandalized, accused of being NPA and called NPA schools despite being recognized by various institutions and individuals. “
Trifpss and Alcadev also decried the red-tagging by military officials who said that “communists are the ones teaching the Lumads,” calling such lines as “broken record.”