Paramilitary groups, suspected of collusion with the military, have killed five people in five days, and caused massive forced evacuation.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA –Members of a notorious paramilitary group killed three men at dawn today, Sept. 1, among them the head of an alternative tribal high school, in a killing spree in Surigao del Sur province. This brings to five the number of extrajudicial killings by paramilitary groups in as many days.
The killings happened at 4 a.m. today, when the group called Magahat-Bagani Forces roused residents of Kilometer 16 in Diatagon village, Lianga town, and forced them out of their homes. Soldiers and the paramilitary group had been in the area since Aug. 30.
Eliza Rose Panganiban, secretary general of Karapatan-Caraga identified those killed as: Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Dionel Campos, chairperson of the Manobo group Malahutayong Pakigbigsog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) and his cousin Bello Sinzo.
Samarca was found dead in a classroom in Alcadev with a stab wound, and his neck, arms and legs tied up. Campos and Sinzo, both residents of sitio Han-ayan in Diatagon, were strafed by the paramilitary men as they were coming out of a house in Kilometer 16.
At least 40 terrified Manobo families, along with 26 Alcadev staff, have begun to evacuate to Diatagon village proper, heading to Tandag City, as of writing. They carried with them the remains of the three victims.
The killings is the worst suffered by the Manobo community, targeted in the past decade by the military, which branded its local organization and learning centers as “New People’s Army (NPA) front and school.”
Alcadev is a school founded by the Lumad group Mapasu, and is located in Han-ayan.
Karapatan-Caraga said that on Aug. 30, a composite unit of at least 30 soldiers of the 36th and 75th Infantry Battalions and Special Forces, arrived in the sub-village of Han-ayan, along with members of the Magahat-Bagani, and occupied Alcadev’s function hall and grounds. The community had just ended its two-day celebration of Alcadev’s foundation day.
On Aug. 31, the Magahat burned down Mapasu’s cooperative and started indiscriminate firing in the community. This prompted the Han-ayan residents and Alcadev staff to go to the nearby community in Kilometer 16. Samarca, however, was forced by the Magahat men to stay behind in the school. This was the last time he was seen alive.
Pangilinan said that the Magahat men seized all the cellphones and cameras of the residents, faculty and staff before leaving Kilometer 16 after the killing.
“Soldiers of the 36th IBPA and Special Forces, who openly stayed in Kilometer 9 (Han-ayan), are conducting their usual patrols, but no other action is being taken as of this time,” said Pangilinan.
“This is a clear indication of collusion between the AFP and the armed Magahat-Bagani Forces,” she said. “Despite the obvious presence of the military who are purportedly there for internal security, these killings continue to happen with impunity.”
On Aug. 28, brothers Crisanto and Ely Tabugol were shot dead by suspected members of the Hasmin group of the Bagani Force in nearby San Miguel town. The paramilitary group threatened to massacre the residents of Siagao village, triggering an evacuation.
Karapatan-Caraga called on the police to investigate the spate of killings. Pangilinan said the Magahat-Bagani Forces is the same group led by Marcos Bocales, which has been implicated in the killing of Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit on October 24, 2014.
“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,” said Panganiban.
Samarca, who hailed from Butuan city, Agusan del Norte, had been a long-time progressive since his youth. He was a staff of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (Uman-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) in the 80s. He was a staff of the regional Lumad support institution Sildap-Sidlakan from 1990 to 1998. He later became a staff of Alcadev when it was established in 2004, and became its executive director in 2012. He left behind a wife and four children.