Lumad leaders blame NPA for Mindanao killings
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 15, 2015 - 3:54am

MANILA, Philippines - The embattled military on Tuesday linked to the media Lumad leaders who claim that the New People’s Army (NPA) are to blame for the killings of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

The Lumads, who held the press conference in Camp Aguinaldo in the presence of soldiers, denied activists claims of widespread militarization in the countryside.

They also claimed that the communist rebels, not soldiers, are the ones manipulating indigenous peoples and occupying communities.

“There are no armed government forces in the community. The NPA rebels are the ones occupying our area to control indigenous peoples and seize ancestral lands,” said Datu Malapandaw Nestor Apas of the Langilan Manobo tribe in Davao del Norte.

“We are not lapdogs of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). We were not ordered to do this,” he added.

The military is being blamed for the spate of Lumad killings in Mindanao, including the murder of Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and indigenous people’s leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo in Lianga town last September 1.

Activists said the three were killed by an Army-supported paramilitary group called Magahat-Bagani Force. The military, however, denied the allegations and attributed the incident to “tribal conflict.”

The press conference was held amid mounting calls to punish the group behind the Lumad killings and to investigate the alleged militarization in Mindanao.    

Art Tariman, convenor of the Victim of Injustice, Terrorism and Criminality in Mindanao and the one who asked the military to connect the Lumads to the media, said the indigenous peoples paid for their airfare to Manila.

The military, however, was mum when asked if the Lumads are staying in one of its headquarters while they are in the metropolis.

Datu Marcial Belandres of the Igua clan in Barobo, Surigao del Sur, said the NPA has attacked communities who refused to be under its control.

When asked if they have evidence that would prove that the communist rebels are behind the violent activities, Apas said, “For sure there is evidence but we do not have it right now.”

“The datus are right when they said that the NPA is just making these things up,” he added.

When asked whether the military helped the Lumads reach the media because it is trying to save its image, Maj. Emmanuel Garcia of the AFP Civil Relations Service said, “We just want to ferret out the truth.” 

ACIRC AGRICULTURAL AND LIVELIHOOD DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVE LEARNING CENTER ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ART TARIMAN CAMP AGUINALDO CIVIL RELATIONS SERVICE DATU MALAPANDAW NESTOR APAS OF THE LANGILAN MANOBO LUMAD LUMADS MINDANAO
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