Groups plan prosecution of HR abuses after fact-finding mission in San Fernando

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 November) – Charges of human rights violations may be filed based on the results of a fact-finding mission scheduled on Nov. 17-19 in San Fernando, Bukidnon, a group said.

The mission, organized by Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization and Karapatan Northern Mindanao Region aims to “call on the Philippine government to stop the escalating killings of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders working on land rights in Mindanao,” according to Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM, event coordinator.

“The output could be used in filing of charges on human rights violations, for policy advocacy, and for report to local and international bodies like the Asian Inter-Governmental Human Rights Commission and the United Nations, and to various foreign consulates in the Philippines,” the group said in a statement seeking media coverage.

The group said residents of Barangay Dao, San Fernando were still harassed by a paramilitary band called New Indigenous People’s Army for Reforms (Nipar), which is accused of killing village chief Jimmy Liguyon on March 5.

Alde Salusad, a former New People’s Army rebel who heads Nipar, admitted to killing Liguyon in an interview over dxDB-Malaybalay a few weeks after the incident.

Salusad said he killed Liguyon for being an alleged rebel supporter. But relatives said he was killed for his opposition to mining activities in Dao and for his refusal to endorse the ancestral domain claim of Salusad’s group.

The self-confessed killer is the son of Benjamin Salusad, also a former NPA rebel who is now a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit.

The groups cited that a warrant of arrest was issued against Salusad and 14 others for murder but it was never served.

Supt. Rustom Duran, then provincial police director, repeatedly told provincial legislators and reporters about the police teams’ difficulty in pursuing Salusad. The evacuees however said the suspect was freely going around Dao.

The group also lamented that the Commission on Human Rights has refused to release the report of its own investigation.

Anilaw Inlantong Erwin Marte, focal person of the Bukidnon Human Rights multi-sectoral coordinating council where CHR is a member, told MindaNews Monday they have eyed a multi-sectoral fact finding mission on their own.

The killing led to two evacuations, on March 14 and August 29. The first group of evacuees encamped in front of the Capitol to press for Alde Salusad’s arrest but went home on August 7 after authorities failed to catch the suspect.

The second group of evacuees arrived on August 29 and also put up tents in front of the Capitol where they have remained to date.

Kasilo, an organization of Matigsalugs in San Fernando is hosting the three-day mission, which includes medical and relief services.

The Community-Based Health Services – Northern Mindanao, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region, and the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact are also joining the mission. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)