LIANGA, Surigao del Sur—Three military and paramilitary personnel were apprehended by Lumad marshals at the funeral of two of the three massacre victims and an evacuee last Sunday, September 13.
Sgt Rudy Ramoso of the Philippine Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay St Cristine this town, Army Private Ryan Alor and Gregorio Cabaso were caught taking photos and videos of Lumad leaders and supporters as thousands prepare to bury Mapasu (Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod) chairperson Dionel Campos, Manobo Datu Juvello Sinzo and four-year old evacuee Reynalyn Enriquez.
Manobo evacuees identified Cabaso as a member of the Magahat-Bagani Forces who was present when the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the paramilitary arrived in Kilometer 16 and Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon last August 30, two days before the massacre.
A caliber .45 firearm was also taken from the three, along with cameras and memory cards that contained pictures taken inside a military camp as well as photos of the gathering.
The three were among “six suspicious characters” taking pictures and videos of the funeral proceedings, but the three others were able to evade apprehension by the enraged Manobos.
Karapatan-Caraga condemned as harassment the military and paramilitary’s armed presence at the funeral.
“The apprehension of the two military and one Magahat/Bagani member last September 13 only shows and proves they are connected,” Karapatan-Caraga secretary general Eliza Pangilinan said.
“They were together at the Kilometer 16 incidents and their harassments against against the Lumad communities are ongoing,” she said.
Pangilinan was among those who brought the three to Lianga’s police station, a few meters away from the site of the incident, and was the one who requested the incident be recorded on the station blotter.
The Philippine Army for its part said that there is no harassment if the place of the incident is within the mission area of one of its units.
“If there are indeed violations it will be automatically investigated. We will file charges against said Army personnel if our field investigators would recommended such course of action,” Philippine Army Public Affairs chief Col Benjamin L Hao said.
Hao however expressed surprise that Bagoso and Alor were apprehended along with known Magahat-Bagani bandit Cabaso.
“I admit I do not have details yet, so kindly give us time to study this. Mabigat ito kung may Magahat (This is serious if they were with a Magahat),” Hao said.
Peoples’ Lawyer Krissy Conti said the soldiers may be charged with violation of Article 309 of the Civil Code of the Philippines when they show disrespect to the dead.
“Any person who wrongfully interferes with a funeral shall be liable for damages,” Conti said.
The soldiers may also be charged with unjust vexation and liable for civil damages for causing disruption during the funeral proceedings.
The two soldiers failed to present mission orders for their armed presence and intelligence-gathering activities at the civilian gathering.
“If the soldiers were there in their private capacity, they may be liable for carrying a gun without a permit to carry. If they were there as public officers, they should have a legitimate operation. Even then, they still need a permit to carry,” Conti said. # (Text by Raymund B Villanueva. Photos by the author and Karapatan-Caraga)