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Call for Peace, Search for Justice

Tambuli tu Kalinow, Paneytow tu Kahusoy

In response to the statements of the 402nd Infantry Brigade (AFP) and Manifesto of NCIP tribal chieftains in San Miguel

Last October 26-30, 2015 participants to the International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) in Surigao del Sur went to Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur to look into the situation of communities affected by the September 1 Lianga massacre and subsequent massive evacuations due to human rights abuses committed by AFP units and paramilitary bandit groups which started in August and continues until present time.

Accompanied by community members and Lumad leaders, a delegation of more than 140 participants, including six participants from the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Australia, visited Han-ayan, Km. 16, Panukmoan and Manluy-a in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga; Magkahunaw in Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin; Brgy. Mahaba in Marihatag; Brgys. Carromata and Bolhoon in San Miguel, all in Surigao del Sur. IFFM teams interviewed community members, teachers of Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), victims and witnesses to the killings and forcible evacuation and local government unit (LGU) officials in Lianga, Barobo, San Agustin, Marihatag, San Miguel and Tago along with the Provincial LGU officials, PNP representatives and public prosecutors in Surigao del Sur. The participants were able to document statements pertaining to human rights violations, military and paramilitary involvement in these HRVs, along with the present conditions of the affected communities.

Instead of participating in the search for the truth, the AFP units in Surigao del Sur have vilified the IFFM and questioned the participation of foreign nationals in the mission. 6 days before the scheduled interviews, appointments were personally made by some of the letters’ signatories and IFFM convenors for audiences with each of the commanding officers of the 36th IBPA, 75th IBPA and the 402nd Brigade which they instantly refused to officially receive. Col. Purisima said that DFA clearance for the foreign participants in the mission was required before they could talk with the IFFM delegation. In the press statement released by the 402nd Brigade on October 26, they argued “foreign intervention” and went so far as to declare the IFFM as “an affront to national sovereignty” and “illegal”.

In an effort to engage the military so that they can respond to allegations of human rights violations against their units, the IFFM still went to the 402nd Brigade Headquarters in Tandag City on the appointed time, but they have chosen to justify their refusal by asking for irrelevant requirements and mouthing pseudo-patriotic statements.

A manifesto signed by Jimmy “Datu Momos” Guinsod, Rizal “Datu Manjobat” Maca and Rico “Datu Alinghian-III” Maca, all of San Miguel, was also issued vilifying the organizers of the IFFM and the IFFM itself. The three are claiming to be “legitimate datus” as they were declared datu by the NCIP. Rico Maca, the NCIP Municipal Chieftain in San Miguel was among the so-called datus that were presented by the military to the media in their September 15 press conference in Camp Aguinaldo to exonerate the AFP from involvement in the September 1 massacre of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo. They also accompanied the military during the Senate Inquiry in Tandag City last October 1 and 2. This clearly shows their bias.

Contrary to the allegations in their statement, the IFFM was able to talk with tribal elders and some NCIP recognized leaders in San Miguel who shared information linking the armed paramilitary leader Calpet Egua with the AFP.

The Manifesto claimed that the IFFM is “biased” as it mainly interviewed members and leaders of Kapunongan sa Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur (KAMASS), Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumsunod (MAPASU), ALCADEV and TRIFPSS. How can the IFFM not interview them when the leaders of these organizations ,if not the organizations themselves, are the victims of grave human rights violations? Dionel Campos was the MAPASU chairperson while Datu Juvello Sinzo was a member when they were killed. Emerito Samarca was the executive director of ALCADEV and he was killed in the very school building he helped establish. The victims of human rights abuses committed in the course of military operations and crimes of the paramilitary groups are members of MAPASU and KAMASS. The schools burned and constantly vilified are those run by TRIFPSS and ALCADEV.

Clearly the statements of the 402nd Brigade and Col. Purisima of the AFP and the manifesto of these so-called “legitimate” lumad leaders aim to discredit the individuals and organizations who participated in the mission to preempt the findings of the IFFM. The issuance of these statements right at the beginning of the mission is part of the systematic AFP campaign to attack the victims and their organizations, vilify them and their friends so that the inhuman acts of murder, harassment, divestment of property and dignity, as well as the suppression of information and lack of transparency in the status of official investigations and plans by law enforcement agencies, can be justified.

The statements of the AFP and their cohorts in the NCIP show their desperation to make the public believe in the alternate reality that the AFP has concocted regarding the Surigao del Sur Lumad crisis. But the truth is glaring and the IFFM validated the grave human rights violations committed by the AFP, their involvement in the creation, arming and use of paramilitary bandit forces in the counter-insurgency campaign in Surigao del Sur and the mining interest behind the continuing military operations at present.

The truth is out and no distortion of the truth can exonerate the Aquino III administration and the AFP, particularly the 75th IB and 402nd Brigade under Col. Isidro Purisima, of their accountability in the Lianga massacre and the current forcible evacuation in Surigao del Sur.

Bishop Modesto Villasanta, UCCP

Rt. Rev. Rhee Timbang, IFI

Fr. Fortunato Estillore, DCT

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