Tandag Diocese renews call to bring Lumad killers to justice

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/09 October) – The Diocese renewed its call to bring the suspects in the killing of three Lumad leaders in the province to justice.

In an apostolic message that will be read on October 11, Indigenous Peoples’ Sunday, the diocese called on government to continue the “truthful and impartial investigation to give justice to the victims”.

The statement, signed by Fr. Fortunato Estillore and approved by Bishop Nereo Odchimar, also called “for the police and soldiers to immediately arrest and bring to trial the suspects; and disband these bandit armed groups that roam our province because they bring chaos and threat to lives not only of the Lumad but also to civilians and businesses.”

Fr. Estillore is the director of the diocese’s Indigenous Peoples Apostolate.

Last Sept. 1, members of the paramilitary group called Magahat-Bagani allegedly killed Emerito Samarca, the director of a school catering to Lumads, and his two companions Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo.

The killings took place in Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur.

In a public hearing in Tandag City conducted by the Senate committee on justice last week, witnesses identified some of the suspects as Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero and Garito Layno.

During the hearing, Bishop Odchimar asked if an “unholy alliance” existed between the military and the Magahat-Bagani owing to observations that the group seemed to be acting with impunity.

Military officials who attended the hearing denied accusations they were coddling the armed group.

“Our Lumad brothers and sisters who live in their ancestral land in the mountains are divested in many ways. Divested of their right to education, equal opportunity to basic services of the government. They continue to experience discrimination, human rights violations and victims of persecution and exploitation of those in power. They are “the Anawim of Yahweh” in our time – the poor of God. They do not have defenders and fighters for their human rights that is meant for all of God’s creation,” the apostolic statement said.

“The death of their leaders and displacement of thousands among them only reflect their situation – a situation without security for their lives, a situation of being always under threat, a situation without protection even under our laws. This is not just. This is not the will of God!

“We also call on all faithful to continue praying for justice, peace and deliverance of our Lumad brothers and sisters and to continue giving help because until now, they are still in the evacuation center at the Tandag City sports complex,” it added.

Around 3,000 evacuees from Diatagon ang neighboring areas fled their homes on the same day the killing occurred. (MindaNews)