Relatives, witnesses in Lumad killings upset over De Lima’s non-appearance in meeting

Witnesses and relatives of slain Lumad leaders and tribal school executive director in Lianga, Surigao del Sur who went to the Department of Justice today for a meeting with Secretary Leila De Lima were disappointed to find found out that De Lima was in Malacanang to respond to an urgent call from the President. The meeting between the Secretary and the Lumad was set more than a week ago. Lumad delegation refused to meet with a DOJ Undersecretary who faced them.

"The Lumad delegation wanted to tell the Secretary their situation and demands. For our part, we would have asked Sec. Leila de Lima to seriously work on the Philippine government’s invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs for an official visit to the country and investigate the killings of Lumad," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said as relatives, witnesses and representatives of rights groups meet with the Justice Secretary today.

"An independent investigation should be pursued, instead of the government’s usual response to form an inter-agency task force, which amounts to nothing," Palabay said. "If this is just going to be like inter-agency created through AO 35, where government institutions implicated in the killings are part of, it’s not going to be believable,” Palabay said.

The AO 35 mandated the following institutions to look into the cases of extrajudicial legal killings, enforced disappearances and torture: Department of the National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Presidential Human Rights Committee, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation.

"Sadly, these departments are either human rights violators or part of BS Aquino’s psywar machinery," Palabay said.

Witnesses to the killing of Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo came to the meeting to share with the Justice Secretary what they saw and who they saw killed their leaders in the September 1 incident. Karapatan also wanted to present the case of the Pangantucan massacre where five Lumad were killed, including a 70-year old blind man and two minors whom the 4th Infantry Division tagged members of the New People’s Army.

According to Karapatan, there are 282 victims of extrajudicial killings, 73 of them are indigenous peoples. Of the 73, 57 are Lumad of Mindanao (as of August 31, 2015). Victims of forcible evacuation have reached to an estimate of 60,000, with most of the cases happened in Mindanao provinces (as of June 30, 2015).

Members of progressive people’s organizations held a protest action in front of the DOJ while waiting for Sec. de Lima. They called for justice for all Lumad killed by paramilitary groups and the Philippine Army.

"The killings, massacres, evacuation, the army encampment in tribal schools are part of BS Aquino's Oplan Bayanihan. The counterinsurgency program also attempts to destroy people's unity by arming civilians and using them in military combat operations. The human rights violations will continue as long as this counterinsurgency program exists," Palabay concluded.


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