DAVAO CITY – Members of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao challenged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and President Benigno Aquino III to immediately act on the killings of three civilians in Surigao del Sur town by militias believed to be supported by the Army.
In a statement, UPLM said they are supporting its member-lawyers who assisted town residents in filing cases of multiple murder, robbery grave threat and coercion against identified members of the Magahat Bagani Force namely Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandrez, and Kalpet Egua.
UPLM lawyers Atty. Antonio Azarcon and Atty. Gerardo Maglinte and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) volunteer lawyers headed by Surigao del Sur Chapter president, Atty. Kutz Melvin Montenegro assisted witnesses Tuesday to file cases a week after the incident.
Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni said they are condemning the killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), Dionel Campos, chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod or MAPASU, and his cousin Juvello Sinzo “by soldiers of the 36th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army (IBPA), the 75th IBPA, AFP 1st Special Forces and their armed paramilitary group who identified themselves as comprising the Magahat/Bagani group.”
“We hold President Aquino directly responsible for these attacks,” said UPLM Secretary General Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni.
“His denial that there is no government campaign of extrajudicial killings is betrayed by the 53 indigenous and environmental activists murdered under this government and which litters his “Daang Matuwid”, literally a dead end laid down by his administration in collusion with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and indigenous paramilitaries as its ‘force multipliers’,” she said.
“MAPASU and the Manobo residents of Lianga have long reported the atrocities perpetrated by the MAGAHAT/BAGANI, who then identified themselves as the AFP’s Task Force Gantangan. This same group was involved in the killing of brothers Crisanto and Ely Tagobol on August 28 in Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel, Agusan del Sur,” Selim-Musni said.
The group of lawyers also said “President Aquino is responsible for the unbridled rise of modern warlordism since the Ampatuan Massacre for his failure to scrap Executive Order 546.”
“This EO signed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave rise to the Ampatuan warlords until it claimed the lives of 58 civilians, including two lawyers, in the infamous Maguindanao Massacre,” it said.
EO 546 directs the Philippine National Police to undertake active support to the Army in internal security operations to counter insurgency and other serious threats to national security, and amends provisions of Executive Order 110 series of 1999.
“As peoples’ lawyers, we will stand by the rights and liberties of indigenous peoples and the basic sectors we have pledged to serve,” said Selim-Musni. (davaotoday.com)