DAVAO CITY – Government militias have allegedly attacked a school and murdered three people on Tuesday morning in the southern Philippine province of Surigao del Sur, human rights groups and church leaders said.
Human rights organizations Karapatan, Hustisya and Bayan have condemned the attack on the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development and killing of the school director – Emerito Samarca; and Dionel Campus, chairman of the indigenous organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod, and his cousin Bello Sinzo.
Members of the anti-communist militia group Magahat-Bagani raided the school in the village of Diatagon i n Lianga town.
Details and the motive of the attack were still unclear, but human rights groups said the raid occurred following reported warnings in the village by government soldiers and militias that civilians colluding with New People’s Army rebels would be punished.
The murderous rampages by militias have forced more than 2,000 villagers to flee their homes.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, said government troops have also occupied the school. She said prior to the attack, militias torched a cooperative store run by Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod.
“On August 31, the militias burned down the community cooperative store while indiscriminately firing around the community. Samarca, according to initial report, was held and detained by some armed members of Magahat before he was killed. He was last seen tied around the neck, his hands and feet were also tied. He was brought to one of the classrooms,” Palabay said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
She said militias also seized cell phones and digital cameras of villagers, who fled for fear of being killed.
Palabay said the militias and soldiers deployed in the village have previously accused the school as being front of the rebel group.
“With so much blood in the hands of (President) Benigno Aquino, the regime cannot simply wash away its stench. The mounting call for justice for those killed will not be silenced,” she said.
Bishop Antonio Ablon, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also condemned the massacre.
“Stop the killings and disband (militia groups) and prosecute the killers. Stop the collusion between armed paramilitary (groups) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Justice for Emy, Onel and Aurelio,” Ablon said in a message passed to the Mindanao Examiner.
Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, did not issue any statement about the allegations and also ignored phone calls made by journalists. The army division has security control over the province.
But the military has strongly denied troops were involved in the attack and said the killings stemmed from a clan war. “As per initial reports we gathered, the violence was the result of a rido or clan war. Authorities are investigating this case,” Army Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from his headquarters in Davao City.
The NPA has not issued a statement about the murders and the accusation the school is being used as its front in the town. Rebels have been fighting for so many decades now for the establishment of communist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)
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