MANILA – A lawyers’ group criticized President Benigno Aquino on the creation of paramilitary groups in tribal communities, calling it “no longer needed [because these are] peaceful in the first place”.

“It’s an old tune. This has been done during the Martial Law era,” said Atty. Rosario Setias-Reyes, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Instead of promoting its creation, Reyes called on the President “to listen to the Lumads, to stop NPA branding, filing of trump up charges, for them to be able go back to their communities peacefully.”

At a press conference on Tuesday here, the IBP assured the Lumads that they would attend to the complaints and accounts of the victims and survivors of the different cases of human rights affecting Lumads in Mindanao. The IBP-Surigao del Sur already assisted Lumad victims on filing complaints against identified suspects in the September 1 killing in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

With the IBP regional chapters in Mindanao, Reyes said that they will “strategize” on what will be their next move.

“After this press conference, we will look upon the cases one by one, then select what to prioritize,” Reyes said calling colleagues in the government that “what is happening is not the way to peace.”

When asked on how hard it would be for the lawyers group, Reyes said they do not mind it, “as long as actions will be made immediately.”

The human rights caravan, Manilakbayan said “there are already more than 100 victims of extra-judicial killings and 40,000 forced evacuees in Mindanao, all under the President Aquino’s term.”

From Zamboanga Peninsula, peasant leader Juanito Caramba, said that vilification is “rampant in their community,” most especially to those who will resist the entry of foreign and large scale mining.

Caramba said that he himself, known to be against the entry of mining corporations in the region, is a victim of vilification. He told the press that on December 2014, a case was filed on him for being suspected as a member of New People’s Army and of being alleged as part of the rebel raid that confiscated weapons in a police detachment in Misamis Oriental. The case was dismissed in January this year for lack of evidence.

The IBP, in a statement, said that “condemnation and dismay should not be the limit of our reaction to what is evidently turning out to be a systemic military-sponsored occupation of tribal lands and forced eviction of our land.”

“Action and true justice are called for. The people responsible for the atrocities should be found and prosecuted to the full extend of the law and, more importantly, the people in the government behind such a warped and twisted military strategy, should stopped and held accountable,” it said.(

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