Inter-agency body should probe killings of lumad – De Lima
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima proposed on Tuesday, September 8, that an inter-agency body be formed to investigate the killings of indigenous people or lumad in Mindanao, allegedly by government forces.
While she said she’s considering sending National Bureau of Investigation agents to conduct a parallel probe into reports that pointed to Army officers and their paramilitary forces to be behind the killings, she said the NBI team cannot do it alone.
“But it cannot be just purely an NBI probe because these are no ordinary criminal offenses. These have complexities,” De Lima said. “We will be monitoring also the congressional hearings. There was a proposal on the congressional hearings to tap the NBI for the probe.”
Senator Grace Poe on Monday already filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the lumad killings.
Last Saturday, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines said in a statement: “We call on authorities to bring to justice the death of our Lumad brothers, the victims of these two horrendous massacres, and permit the conduct of independent fact finding missions.”
The justice secretary said the inter-agency body, should one be formed, must have prosecutors, state counsels, and representatives of agencies that are not attached to the justice department. That way, she said, the probe will be more effective.
De Lima backs the move of the Commission on Human Rights, an agency she used to chair, to look into the lumad’s cases. They will be looking into reports that the Philippine Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces are working with paramilitary forces called “Magahat” or “Bagani” in harassing or attacking the lumad.
Among the allegations that the justice secretary wants to look into are the reasons the military has a presence in the communities to begin with. There are also complaints pending with the Davao Prosecutor’s Office for illegal detention, coercion, threat, and human trafficking against lumad leaders.
“There must be a good reason why there is military presence. But does that mean there is militarization? Does it mean there’s encampment and what is being prohibited? These should be looked into,” De Lima said.
“I told PG (Prosecutor General Claro Arellano) to check specifically on the allegations in support of the charges for trafficking in persons because this is really the first time I’m hearing of trafficking in persons charged in an internal displacement situation,” she said. – Rappler.com