Surigao Sur evacuees swell to 2,700 as military, para-military ops continue

Source: -
Date of publication: 
7 September, 2015

Surigao Sur evacuees swell to 2,700 as military, para-military ops continue – Karapatan

MANILA – The number of lumad (indigenous people) forced to evacuate their homes in Surigao del Sur have swollen to more than 2,700 as military and para-military operations continue, the human rights group Karapatan said in a news release Sunday.

Karapatan identified the military and para-military groups that are frightening people away from their homes and communities as the 36th Infantry Battalion, 75th Infantry Battalion, Special Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the bandit group of Marcos Bocales and Marcial Belandres.

Eighty-three families with 432 individuals from five lumad communities of Barangay Bolhoon in San Miguel town joined the earlier evacuees who sought sanctuary at the Provincial Sports Center in Barangay Telaje, Tandag City, the human rights group said.

This brought the number of evacuees to around 500 families with more or less 2,700 individuals from 21 neighboring lumad communities in the four hinterland municipalities of Surigao del Sur (Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel, and Tago), it added.

Karapatan said nine tribal schools have been closed down as the evacuation affects 676 students and 47 teachers.

The new evacuees from four communities in San Miguel town have been seeking shelter at the municipal gymnasium in San Miguel poblacion since August 9, 2015, after members of the Bocales bandit group told them to leave their community or they will be massacred, Karapatan said.

Teachers of the Nalindog Tribal Community School were accused of being members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) as NPA school.

They decided to join their fellow lumad in Tandag when 16 families with 81 individuals evacuated from Tambonon late last night toward San Roque, Karapatan said. They proceeded to San Miguel poblacion in fear for their lives because of military presence in their communities and upon hearing gunshots in the mountain areas around their community.

Members of the 36th IB and the Bocales bandit group were said to be going toward their community, which is located at the other side of the mountains in Diatagon, Lianga.

Earlier evacuations

The 15 lumad communities from Lianga, San Agustin, and Tago evacuated after military elements of the 36th IB, 75th IB, Special Forces of the AFP and some members of the Bocales bandit group allegedly tortured and killed Emerito “Tatay Emok” Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Livelihood and Agricultural Development (Alcadev).

The same military and para-military groups also allegedly shot and killed Mapasu chairman Dionel Campos along with another lumad Datu Bello Sinzo in the early morning of September 1.

They also indiscriminately fired their weapons, encamped in the school grounds and classrooms, ransacked houses, burned the Mapasu cooperative store, burned the Han-ayan Tribal Community School, and took the cellphones, cameras, and computers of the residents, teachers, and visitors, Karapatan said.

Military men allegedly also threatened the residents that they would be massacred if they do not leave their communities within two days, the human rights group said.

The Alcadev foundation day celebration had just ended two days prior and the people were in vigil for a dead resident, when the rampage happened.

The people from neighboring lumad communities, upon hearing several bursts of gunshots, joined the Han-ayan and Km 16 residents in evacuation.

The bodies of Samarca, Campos, and Bello Sinzo currently lie in wake at the Provincial Capitol building in Tandag City.

Members of the 36th IB, 75th IB, Special Forces, and the Bocales bandit group are believed to still be in the communities.

Returning home

On the other hand, the 332 families with 1,865 individuals who evacuated from Siagao to the poblacion of San Miguel have already returned home, Karapatan said. They evacuated after brothers Crisanto and Loloy Tagugol were shot and killed allegedly by members of the Hasmin bandit group last August 28.

As of posting time, no perpetrator has been arrested, the 36th IB, 75th IB, and Special Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines continue their military operations in the mountain areas. The members of the Bocales bandit group also continue to be used and coddled by the AFP despite its members being positively identified as killers, Karapatan said.

The evacuees are demanding justice for the extra judicial killing of Samarca, Campos, and Bello Sinzo, along with the Tabugol brothers; the immediate dismantling, arrest and persecution of their killers and an end to militarization of their communities so that they can immediately return home, their children can continue their schooling and they can recover from the destruction and loss to lives, property and opportunities that these incidents have brought.