Raps mulled vs officials for not arresting suspect in Lumad leader’s death

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/06 March) – Leaders of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said they may file administrative charges against certain government officials for their failure to arrest the suspect in the killing of a Lumad leader in San Fernando, Bukidnon a year ago.

Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, UCCP general secretary, said they were dismayed that Aldy Salusad, the principal suspect in the death of Jimmy Liguyon has remained scot-free.

Marigza was speaking in a press conference Tuesday which coincided with the first death anniversary of Liguyon, who was the barangay captain of Dao, San Fernando at the time of his death.

He said they have asked the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice for help, to no avail.

Liguyon, a church member was slain on March 5, 2012 in his home allegedly after he refused to endorse the mining application of the San Fernando Matigsalug Tribal Datus Association in Dao.

Liguyon’s widow, Sharon Rose, told MindaNews the family’s life has not returned to normal.

“It’s a very difficult life (after his death). The trauma is still here,” she said.

She reiterated their demand for Salusad’s arrest and their refusal to submit to the tribe’s traditional justice system, saying it’s not enough to pay his husband’s life with animals.

Among Lumads who still adhere to their traditional justice system animals are among the payment given to the family of a murdered person, in addition to blood money and other items which may be agreed upon during the negotiation.

Pastor Juliet Aguilar, UCCP national coordinator for justice and peace cited that prior dialogues with DILG and DOJ had yielded “no concrete actions.”

On Dec. 7, UCCP leaders had a dialogue with Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III. The official promised to look into the case but referred them to the DILG.

On January 16, the bishops held a conference with DILG Undersecretary Rafael Santos who told them it was their first time to look into the case. They asked for time to contact the Bukidnon police director.

But Bishop Melzar Labuntog of the UCCP Northwest Mindanao Area expressed disappointment that Santos asked the bishops instead if they had suggestions on how to serve the warrant of arrest.

Regional Trial Court Judge Josefina Gentiles Bacal issued a warrant of arrest for Salusad on April 30, 2012. The judge recommended no bail.

Labuntog lamented that the police and military had admitted they could not arrest Salusad.

He said their effort to seek help from the provincial was also fruitless.

But he said they have to persevere in the case to avert the threat of mining to the communities [in San Fernando].

“What will we use the mines for if the people are no longer there?” he said.

In a statement, the UCCP cited the atmosphere of “lawlessness and terror” in Dao.

“In the strongest possible terms, we denounce the extra-judicial killing of (Liguyon) and demand the immediate prosecution of SaIusad and his criminal accomplices,” it said.

The UCCP also called on the government to immediately disarm and disband the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) in the area and NIPAR (New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform) as they “clearly overstep the rule of law and impede the area’s peace and order.”

The UCCP led a prayer rally for Liguyon at Plaza Rizal before the press conference. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)