Guingona takes police, military to task: Lumad's killers roam free
SURIGAO DEL SUR, Philippines – After hearing the accounts of the Manobos from Lianga town in this province, Senator Teofisto Guingona III concluded that the killers of the indigenous community leaders are roaming freely and still terrorizing people, but that the police and the army are not doing anything about it.
Guingona and another Mindanaoan, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, were in Tandag City in this province from October 1 to 2 for a Senate hearing on the killings of Lumad or indigenous people in the province.
On Thursday, October 1, Guingona said the immediate solution to the Lumad killings would be to arrest the suspects and disarm the paramilitary groups in the communities.
The Lumad from at least 5 towns in Surigao del Sur have fled to Tandag City since killings began. As of last count, there are 3,180 of them, belonging to 580 families, at the Tandag Sports Complex.
“We are here to find out who did it and who should be held responsible,” Guingona said.
Students from the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) told Guingona that their own community members, even relatives, were the ones who killed the school’s executive director Emerito Samarca; Dionel Campos, chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu); and his cousin Bello Sinzo on September 1.
They said the paramilitary group composed of Manobos were created by the military to control their area and its natural resources.
Witnesses Ronel Campos, Imelda Belandres, Roel Tejero, Regine Tejero, and Gideon Galecia said the military came to their community on August 30 and 31, just before the killings of their leaders.
The military denied arming the community vigilantes.
Colonel Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, said that their engagement with the communities are only for regular security operations. He said the Lumad’s claim that the military encamped less than a kilometer away from their communities was not true.
But Tandag Archbishop Nerio Odchimar testified that Marcial Belandres, a suspect in another killing, that of Henry Alameda, was even brought to Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by the military itself.
Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala, commanding officer of the Civil Relations Service, said that Belandres was invited to shed light on the dynamics and relationship of the indigenous communities with the communist New People’s Army, and the latter’s violations against the Lumad.
Kakilala said Belandres went through the Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (CLIP) of the Office for the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) for rebel returnee, and that there was no outstanding warrant of arrest for him.
However, Guingona said that, since Belandres was identified by witnesses, Belandres should be arrested and held liable.
“I don’t know why they (police and army) cannot arrest them. That is the first step, you heard the testimonies, the emotions. The police should arrest them,” Guingona said.
“How can justice start if they are not arrested? There are armed men who enter a community, terrorizing everyone, they killed someone in front of everyone, someone must be held responsible and liable for this,” the senator continued.
“The PNP and AFP must be able to track them down. How come other people know where they are, and the army and police do not?” Guingona asked. – Rappler.com