Tandag bishop raises alarm over unsolved killings in Surigao del Sur

Tandag Bishop Raul Bautista Dael (center) during his ordination at the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro City on 7 June 2018). MindaNews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 06 April) — Bishop Raul Dael of the Diocese of Tandag has called on the police and local officials to resolve the spate of killings in Surigao del Sur since August last year that have victimized people from all walks of life.

The number of victims had reached 46 as of January, Dael said in his pastoral letter read during the Chrism Mass on Tuesday. The figures for the months of February and March were not available yet.

He said he was alarmed that based on the data sent to him by Brig. Gen. Pablo G. Labra II, Caraga Regional Police Director, killings occurred even in the middle of busy streets and commercial areas.

In his letter to Dael, Labra said 39 of the 46 cases were already referred to the prosecutor’s office and the courts while six were still under investigation and will be filed as soon as evidence is obtained.

Based on the same data, the victims were students, mechanics, businessmen, jobless persons, faith healers, retired workers, farmers, Army soldiers, laborers, drivers, self-employed individuals, housekeepers, caretakers, and a government treasurer.

Tandag City has the highest number of cases with nine, followed by Bislig City and San Miguel with five each, and Barobo town with four. The rest of the towns have one to three cases each.

“It is unfortunate that many of these killings remain unsolved as the principal suspects are either at large or unknown. This situation perpetuates anguish of the families of victims and engenders fear, instability, and insecurity among our people,” Dael said in his pastoral letter.

The bishop called on local government officials for the efficient implementation of peace and order programs and projects at the provincial and municipal levels, and conscientious assessments of the prevailing peace and order situation in their respective areas of responsibility.

In a phone interview, Col. Dennis Siruno, Police Provincial Director of Surigao del Sur, blamed most of the killings on the New People’s Army (NPA). He alleged the rebels went after former comrades who had surrendered to the government.

He said most of the victims availed of the rebel returnee program of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which could have irked the NPA.

The police official said he had a meeting with Dael two months back and asked the bishop to help in gathering information that would help locate the suspects.

He added that some of the arrested suspects revealed the names of the alleged rebels involved in the killings.

At least 33 suspects were still at large, 10 were arrested, 1 escaped and 2 were released.

Eleven suspects have aliases, and Siruno believed they belong to the guerrilla movement. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)