The deaths of three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Tuesday, June 15, is the 25th massacre of civilians in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s counter-insurgency campaign, a human rights group reported.
Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said the Lianga Massacre on June 15 was the second since 2015 and “a testimony of the [Duterte] regime’s hideous legacy of killings” that continues up to its last year in power.
“We condemn in the strongest terms this latest massacre in Lianga and ask with much rage, ‘How many more will Duterte’s state forces kill and kill?’” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Karapatan’s Caraga regional chapter said in an urgent alert last Wednesday that troops belonging to the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) of the Philippine Army fired upon a group of six farmers, killing three while the three others ran for safety.
Killed were farmers Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
All members of the Lumad-Manobo tribe, they were residents of Sitio Manluy-a, Brgy. Diatagon.
Angel Rivas, 12 years old, was a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) while her sister Lenie and cousin Willy Rodriguez were members of Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).
The soldiers brought the lifeless bodies of the three to their brigade headquarters in St. Christine, Lianga and presented the victims as New People’s Army (NPA) members.
Spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict were also quick to allege Angel was an NPA “child soldier” killed in a firefight with the government soldiers.
Relatives of the victims however belied the government’s claim and said the victims were simply on their way to Lianga town proper to buy rice after harvesting abaca hemp at their farm.
They even sought permission from a nearby military encampment to visit their abaca farm Tuesday morning, the relatives said.
The military troops of the 3rd SFB led by Captain Aranas and the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been encamping in the community of Manluy-a for several months and had established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18.
The relatives also bewailed the state of the cadavers when fetched from the funeral parlor, saying Angel’s face is unrecognizable from its numerous bullet wounds.
The cadavers were also haphazardly wrapped in plastic and packaging tape, they added.
“The perpetrators are mad killers, with clearly no respect to life and rights. They look at the Lumad people like hunted prey, lying to their teeth and falsely tagging the victims as members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Palabay fumed.
June 15’s incident is the second massacre in Barangay Diatagon since Lumad-Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), were killed by Magahat-Bagani paramilitary men on September 1, 2015.
The paramilitaries were then under the command of the 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.
The earlier massacre set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.
No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre, which coincidentally happened on the last year of the previous Benigno Aquino government.
Karapatan said 121 civilians, mostly farmers and indigenous peoples, have been killed in 25 massacres in the five years of the Duterte government:
- Sumilao, Bukidnon;
- Palayan, Nueva Ecija;
- Masbate City, Masbate;
- Cawayan, Masbate;
- Mobo, Masbate;
- Mandaon, Masbate
- San Nicolas, Pangasinan;
- Silay, Negros Occidental
- Gubat, Sorsogon;
- Bulan towns, Sorsogon;
- Lake Sebu, South Cotabato;
- Polomolok, South Cotabato;
- Siaton, Negros Oriental;
- Bato, Camarines Sur;
- Ragay, Camarines Sur;
- Matalam, Cotabato;
- Patikul, Sulu;
- Baguio City;
- Polomok, South Cotabato;
- Kabacan, North Cotabato;
- Baras, Rizal;
- Sta. Rosa, Laguna; and
- Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
“These killings should be met with all the strongest condemnation possible from different sectors. Justice for Angel Rivas, Willy Rodriguez, and Lenie Rivas!” Palabay said.
Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ rights advocates held an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on Thursday evening, June 17, to condemn the latest massacre.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)