STATEMENT: On the Lianga and Pangantucan Lumad Massacres in Mindanao

On the Lianga and Pangantucan Lumad Massacres in Mindanao
by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
Psalm 82:3 NIV

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) condemns in the strongest terms the recent spate of massacres in the Lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and Pangantucan, Bukidnon in Mindanao. Last September 1, 2015, Emerito ‘Tatay Emok’ Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc. (ALCADEV), Dionel Campos, chairperson of MAPASU (Persevering Struggle for Future Manobo Generations), and his cousin Aurelio “Bello” Sinzo were killed. While the teachers and students of the school were harassed, and hundreds of individuals have been displaced in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.  In Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, five lumads were killed in what the police and military assert was a “legitimate encounter” between state forces and the New People’s Army.

We uphold the statements of Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the National Priest Organization (NPO), and Council of Priests (COP) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) that the circumstantial evidences of the Lianga massacre are pointing  to the 36th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army and to the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Forces as culprits.

We also join the relatives and IFI bishops in supporting the media statement of the lone survivor of the Pangantucan massacre on how soldiers shot his father Herminio Samia, his brothers Joebert Samia,  and Norman Samia, relatives Emir, Somina and Elmer Somina, one by one. We criticize the autopsy conducted by the Philippine National Police – Scene of the Crime Operatives (PNP-SOCO) that was done without the presence of the families of the victims or their friends. This places doubt on the police report on the paraffin test done on the victims that the AFP uses as an assertion that they were all rebel combatants.

We call on government to ensure the safety of the Lumads through the pull out of the presence of the 1st Special Forces Battalion under the 4th Infantry Division in Pangantucan, Bukidnon and the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and through the dismantling the AFP organized and supported paramilitary forces.

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.

We call on authorities, our churches, and international partners in supporting the victims including displaced individuals and their families through basic necessities such as food, temporary shelter, medical, psychosocial, and spiritual care.

We call  to stop the militarization in Mindanao by ending the government anti-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, that has been linked to extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, trumped up charges, tortures, massacres, and displacement of thousands of individuals. We continue our cry the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in order to address the root causes of armed conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country for a just and lasting peace.

The Most Reverend Ephraim S. Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo XII, IFI and NCCP Chair

Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.
General Secretary, NCCP