‘Military supports Surigao tribal warriors,’ human rights group say

Nov. 04, 2014

DAVAO CITY—A human rights spokesperson said the tribal warrior Bagani forces in Surigao del Sur are controlled and supported by the military.

“We maintain our position that Datu Calpet Egua is supported and is even instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This is substantiated by the current conduct of combat operations in various areas where they operate,” said Dr. Naty Castro, spokesperson of Karapatan-Caraga.

Castro issued this statement Tuesday after the military has reportedly disowned the acts of Bagani forces led by Datu Calpet Egua when it conducted operations against the communist guerillas.

In an Inquier.net report, Col. Gregory Cayetano, head of the Army’s 401st Brigade said that Bagani forces led by Egua “was not part of paramilitary groups allowed to fight the rebels.”

Cayetano said  that Egua’s armed group “had no authority to conduct operations against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and had not been given orders to recruit from among the villagers.”

But for the human rights group Karapatan, the Calpit Egua paramilitary group “has ties with and is armed by the military especially by the 3rd Special Forces Battalion and the 401st Infantry Brigade.”

“The Egua group is said to be involved in criminal acts like land grabbing, rape and killings of lumads. They are also known as forcibly collecting money from small businesses and small scale miners in the Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur boundaries,” the group said.

Castro said Karapatan’s claim is supported by the testimonies of the relatives of Henry Alameda and of the tribal communities displaced by intensified operations against the rebels.

“Even if the military disowned Egua’s group, we have proof to point that military forces are closely associated with Egua’s group which is responsible for committing various human rights violations,” said Castro.

“Failure of the military to arrest the perpetrators is a tacit permission and instigation of such acts against the MAPASU tribal communities,” said Castro.. (Mart D. Sambalud/davaotoday.com)

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