“Military occupation of civilian institutions and killing of civilians…are unacceptable, deplorable and contrary to international human rights and international humanitarian standards.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Two United Nations (UN) experts have called on the Aquino government to “to launch a full and independent investigation” on the Sept. 1 killing of two Lumad leaders and a tribal school head in Surigao del Sur.
In a joint statement, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed concern on the spate of killings of human rights defenders.
“We urge the Philippine authorities to ensure that such investigation into these tragic events be carried out independently to identify and bring perpetrators to justice, to ensure the safe return of the indigenous peoples displaced by the recent violent events, and guarantee redress to the victims’ families in compliance with their indigenous traditions and the demilitarization and restoration of peace in regions affected by armed conflicts including in Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon,” said the UN experts.
Forst urged the Philippine government to “finally accept his repeated requests to visit the country in order to assess, in the spirit of dialogue and cooperation, the environment in which human rights defenders operate in the Philippines.”
Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, endorsed the statement, issued Sept. 22, Geneva time.
On Sept. 1, paramilitary men, suspected to be in collusion with soldiers, killed Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo and tribal school director Emerito Samarca in Han-ayan community in Diatagon village, Lianga.
The UN experts also cited the brutal massacre of a Manobo family on Aug. 18 in Mendis village, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, where five members of the Samia family, including a 72-year old blind man and his two minor children were shot dead by Philippine Army soldiers.
“Following the murders, the military is hindering the access of indigenous communities from spending long periods of time needed for tilling in the mountains where their farms are located. The communities are also denied access to the sacred burial sites also located in those mountains,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
“Military occupation of civilian institutions and killing of civilians, particularly in places such as schools which should remain safe havens for children from this type of violence, are unacceptable, deplorable and contrary to international human rights and international humanitarian standards,” they said.
Tauli-Corpuz, a native Kankana-ey from Cordillera, met with several Lumad victims from Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon on Sept. 16, when they gave their testimonies and submitted documentation of human rights violations from Mindanao regions.
The UN experts also took note of the announcement by the Philippine delegation to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva that an investigation is “underway.”