Platoon leader to face court martial over lumad killings in Surigao del Sur

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Sept) – A platoon leader will be facing court martial proceedings for the killings of lumads in Surigao del Sur recently, Army officials said.

Army chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, during his visit at the 4th Infantry Division headquarters here Thursday afternoon, said that a board of inquiry under 4ID chief Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao recommended court martial proceedings against the officer whom he did not name.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4ID spokesman, said they could not name the officer yet, but mentioned that the officer involved is a platoon leader of the 75th Infantry Battalion. “The company commander was reprimanded and the officer in charge of the battalion was relieved of his post,” he added.

“This is based on what we call command responsibility, our way of implementing what we call administrative responsibility,” Año said, “in an area wherein you have responsibility to maintain the peace and order, or you might have neglected something which might have lead to a certain incident.”

Año also assured the full cooperation of the Army should the Senate conduct an inquiry of its own. “In fairness to everyone, to our troops, to the victims of the killing and the people in Lianga, it is better for us to be transparent about this situation,” he said.

But despite the findings of the board of inquiry to subject the platoon leader to court martial proceedings, Año was quick to say that his soldiers were not directly or indirectly involved in the killings of civilians in Lianga.

“Our soldier’s respect human rights and the International Humanitarian Law. And most especially our soldiers are protectors of the people, no matter what political leaning they come from, it is our mandate and duty to protect the people and the state,” he said.

Evacuees, mostly belonging to the Manobo tribe, began flocking to capital Tandag City since last month when Bagani militia gunmen threatened residents as well as the staff of a tribal school in Sitio Nalindog, Barangay Bolhoon, San Miguel town. On August 28, the militiamen allegedly murdered brothers Cristano and Ellie Tabogol in Barangay Siargao in the same town.

Last September 1, another militia, the Magahat, murdered Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, an award-winning tribal school in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town. They also killed Dionel Campos, chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), and his cousin Bello Sinzo, in front of residents and staff and students of the school, who the militiamen had rounded up.

Residents who witnessed the shooting claimed that a day before the attack, soldiers stayed in the village. They further said that the soldiers were just nearby when the attack happened but the soldiers did nothing even as the militia fired their automatic rifles in the air, the noise heard across several villages.

At present, around 3,000 individuals have been displaced and staying at the Surigao del Sur Sports Complex in Tandag City.