Task force formed to probe Lumad killings
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 18, 2015 - 1:54am

MANILA, Philippines - A task force has been formed to run after the group behind the deaths of three Lumad or indigenous people’s leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur this month.

Cpt. Joe Martinez, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Division, said Joint Task Force “Tejero” was created during a meeting of local and security officials last Wednesday at the Surigao del Sur provincial capitol. 

He said the objective of the task force is “to speed up the apprehension of the perpetrators” of the Lumad killings. 

“We will provide necessary resources to support the PNP on this law enforcement operation especially on the immediate arrest of the suspects to shed light on the crimes they’ve committed,” said Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, chief of the 4th Infantry Division. 

The meeting was presided by Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel and attended by Lactao, Police Regional Office 13 Deputy Regional Director for Operations Senior Superintendent Gregorio Pimentel, 402nd Infantry Brigade chief Col. Isidro Purisima, and Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office Director Narciso Verdadero.

Activists blame the military for the killing of Lumads, saying the executions were carried out as part of the campaign against communist insurgency. 

They also claim that an Army-supported paramilitary group was behind the killing of three Lumads in Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last September 1. 

Killed were Emerito Samarca, director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development and indigenous people’s leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo.

Activists believe the perpetrators were government militia men of the Magahat-Bagani Force but military officials deny links with the group.

The military said tribal conflict was behind the killings and that the Magahat-Bagani Force was created by Lumads who used to be part of the New People’s Army (NPA). 

“The Magahat-Bagani Force was formed by former Lumad NPA members who wanted to fight their former comrades. It is not part of the AFP command structure,” AFP Civil Relations Service chief Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said.

Human rights group Karapatan, however, is not buying the military’s explanation.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) claimed it already did its own investigation and immediately exonerated itself from the killing. Are they trying to be funny? Who, in the right mind, would believe in this kind of investigation?" Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said in a statement. 

“The AFP is now saying the killing was a result of a tribal war. They were so quick to have their own findings. Such a lame alibi to exonerate the army's role in the political killings," she added

Karapatan has asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the killings and to recommend actions to address the issue.

"This is exactly why we are requesting the United Nations Human Rights Council to do its own investigation — so the government cannot fudge the findings. We challenge the government to issue official invitations to the concerned UN Special Rapporteurs for them to be able to conduct their own probe on the killings of Lumad,” Palabay said. 

 

ACIRC AGRICULTURAL AND LIVELIHOOD DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVE LEARNING CENTER ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BARANGAY DIATAGON LUMAD LUMADS MAGAHAT-BAGANI FORCE NBSP SURIGAO UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
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