DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 Sept) – The executive director of an alternative learning center for Indigenous Peoples (Lumads) and two other members were killed allegedly by paramilitary elements at 4 a.m. Tuesday in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Karapatan-Caraga said in a press statement.
Killed were Emerito Samarca, 54, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Dionel Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), a Lumad organization protesting mining operations, land conversions and plantations; and Campos’ cousin, Bello Sinzo.
In a press statement, Karapatan-Caraga narrated that at around 4 a.m. on September 1, “known elements” of the Magahat-Bagani “opened fire at Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo as community members in Km. 16, Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur were roused from bed and forced to gather in the middle of the community early this morning.”
At around the same time, Samarca’s body “was found in one of the schoolrooms, tied around the neck and extremities, with a stab wound.”
Karapatan-Caraga noted that on August 30, after the two-day celebration of Alcadev’s foundation day, some elements of the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces with members of the Magahat-Bagani Force “occupied the school’s function hall and areas within the school grounds.”
The Magahat “threatened to massacre the community should they not evacuate within two days,” the press statement said.
Capt. Al Anthony Pueblas, civil military operations officer of 36tB, told mindanews they were surprised their unit was implicated because the area is “not part of our jurisdiction.”
Karapatan-Caraga also reported that on August 31, MAPASU’s cooperative store was burned by the Magahat whose members allegedly “indiscriminately fired around the vicinity,” prompting residents of Han-ayan and the school staff, as well as their guests, to seek refuge in Km. 16.
But as the residents were preparing to leave for Km. 16, “Samarca was detained at the Alcadev grounds by some members of the Magahat,” Karapatan-Caraga said.
“This was the last time that he was seen alive,” it said.
Karapatan-Caraga also said “all cellphones and cameras of the residents, faculty and staff were seized by the Magahat before pulling out from Km. 16 after the killing.”
“This is a clear indication of collusion between the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the armed Magahat-Bagani Forces,” said Eliza Pangilinan, Karapatan-Caraga secretary general.
“Despite the obvious presence of the military who are purportedly there for internal security, these killings continue to happen with impunity,” she said,
“We call on the law enforcement agencies and the local prosecutors to seriously investigate the increasing spate of killings that are perpetrated by these groups. Instead of filing charges against activists, left and right, they should look at the apparent connection between the military and these armed paramilitary groups, file charges and arrest them and bring a stop to impunity. This is the only way that communities can truly feel secure,” Panganiban said.
Members of the Magahat-Bagani Forces led by Marcos Bocales were also implicated in the killing of Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit on October 24, 2014.
In Quezon City, Karapatan national office said in a media advisory that activists led by Karapatan, Hustisya and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan scheduled a candlelight protest along E. Rodriguez Avenue, in front of the Quezon City Sports Club, to demand justice for the victims.
The commander of the 36IB could not be reached for comment.
Kalumaran-Caraga said Samarca was married with four children. He was a member of the Alcadev staff since its founding and became Executive Director in 2012. He worked with SILDAP-SIDLAKAN, a Lumad support institution in Caraga, from 1990 to 1998 and with the Union sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte-Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (UMAN-KMP) in the 1980s.
Campos became chair of MAPASU in 2004.
“There are 26 faculty and staff of Alcadev that are with the evacuees from Km 16 now while about 40 families from Km 16 and Han-ayan have evacuated and are in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga on their way to Tandag City,” Karapatan-Caraga said.