NORZAGARAY, Bulacan, Sept. 3, 2015 – A Catholic religious doing mission work among the Dumagats of Sierra Madre has denounced the recent killing of three civilians, including the head of a local Lumad school, in Surigao del Sur by alleged members of paramilitary group “Magahat,” fearing like incidents can happen to other IP communities in the country if the government remains blind to their plight.
“Government authorities must do all they can so that victims of the crime get the justice they deserve. They should see to it that this will not happen again in the future,” stressed Br. Martin Francisco, a member of the Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of the Poor (BSMP), in an interview.
He lamented that injustices directed to indigenous peoples (IP) and their communities continue to take place despite laws that protect their rights.
Francisco went on to share that he himself and the Dumagat communities he has been serving for almost a decade now have been exposed to similar harassments which he believes stems from the desire to grab anew lands originally belonging to IPs.
“We have received death threats from armed thugs wearing bonnets. There have been efforts to intimidate us. But thankfully, we have so far not had face-to-face encounters with them,” he said.
According to him, people he refused to identify but who he confirmed have vested interests, resent the fact that the IPs of that part of Sierra Madre were able to reclaim their ancestral land which they now call “Punduhan ng mga Dumagat.”
“That is why we need to be extra careful,’” Francisco added.
InterAksyon.com reported that Magahat on Tuesday morning killed “execution style” Emerico Samarta, school director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) in Barangay Diatagon and cousins Dionel Campus and Aurelio Sinzo in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)