Protesters decried the continuing attacks against their leaders and communities, and injustice for victims of the past administration.
MANILA – Moro and indigenous peoples trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) here today, Oct. 17 to call on the agency to dismiss the trumped-up charges against some 200 activists from the ranks of national minorities.
Instead, they said the DOJ should prosecute soldiers and paramilitary men who perpetrated – and continue to perpetrate – the killings, harassment and other attacks on schools and communities.
The 1,000-strong protesters belong to the newly-formed alliance Sandugo or Kilusan ng Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya, whose delegates arrived in Manila last week. Today’s protesters came from communities from Luzon and Mindanao, many of whom had experienced intensified militarization and harassment by soldiers. Many of their leaders are also on the wanted list of paramilitary men who branded them as “New People’s Army (NPA) organizers.”
The protest was timed on the sixth death anniversary of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, the Italian missionary and long-time Lumád advocate who was killed by suspected members of the paramilitary group Alamara in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato in 2011.
The group cited cases of killings by paramilitary groups under the Aquino administration, such as the “Lianga massacre”by the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group which killed school director Emerito Samarca and Lumád leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo.
“Like Emerito Samarca, Fr. Pops Tentorio was a staunch anti-mining activist and is one of the pioneering contributor in the establishment of Lumád schools in Mindanao since the 90s,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, secretary general of Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu).
Among those detained based on trumped-up criminal cases are from the Salugpungan schools: 64-year-old Lumád advocate Amelia Pond, also a Salugpungan teacher and researcher, who was arrested Aug. 19 and remains in detention in Tagum City; and Dominiciano Muya, a Lumád agriculturist volunteer who was arrested in 2014 and is still detained in Bukidnon.
A Sandugo statement also cited the case of five teachers of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (Alcadev) and Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (Trifpss) who were charged with human trafficking.
In a dialogue, leaders of Sandugo and human rights group Karapatan asked the DOJ to form a task force to review the cases to expedite the dismissal of fabricated cases and releases of those detained. In response, Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes asked the groups to submit the cases.
Text by DEE AYROSO
Photos by KILAB MULTIMEDIA