MANILA, Sept. 6, 2015 – With the recent spate of killings in the region, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has come to believe that the Lumad communities of Bukidnon and Surigao del Sur would be better off without the military there, and urges government authorities to end the ongoing militarization of Mindanao and prioritize the welfare of its indigenous people (IP) instead.
“We call on government to ensure the safety of the Lumads through the pullout of the 1st Special Forces Battalion under the 4th Infantry Division in Pangantucan, Bukidnon and the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and through the dismantling AFP-organized and -supported paramilitary forces,” says the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) in a statement.
The largest coalition of non-Catholic Christian groups in the country goes on to demand justice for the Lumads killed allegedly by the government’s anti-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan which has been linked to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, trumped-up charges, tortures, massacres, and displacement of thousands of individuals.
Call for aid
“We call on authorities, our churches, and international partners in supporting the victims including displaced individuals and their families through basic necessities such as food, temporary shelter, medical, psychosocial, and spiritual care,” NCCP says.
“We continue our cry the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in order to address the root causes of armed conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country for a just and lasting peace,” it adds.
On Sept. 1, 2015, Emerito “Tatay Emok” Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc. (ALCADEV), Dionel Campos, chairperson of MAPASU (Persevering Struggle for Future Manobo Generations), and his cousin Aurelio “Bello” Sinzo were killed by suspected members of a paramilitary group.
Meanwhile, its teachers and students were harassed, and hundred others displaced in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
In Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, five Lumads were killed in what the police and military assert was a “legitimate encounter” between state forces and the New People’s Army.
According to NCCP, circumstantial evidences of the Lianga massacre point to the 36th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army and to the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Forces as culprits. (Raymond A. Sebastián /CBCP News)