As the Senate probes the killing of Manobo leaders in Lianga, members of the clergy of the Diocese of Tandag mobilized support for the Lumads on October 1, a month after the incident.
Led by Bishop Nereo Odchimar, the local church leaders claim that the series of harassment and recent murders are related to the extensive mining operations in the Caraga region.
“We can observe that only the Lumads who firmly stand against mining activities were the ones being intimidated by the Magahat-Bagani group suspected as being trained and funded by the military,” Director of the Diocesan Social Action Center of Tandag Fr. Bong Galela.
Galela’s assertion is consistent with the Pastoral Letter issued by the Diocese during their Presbyterium meeting last September 8. The statement condemned not just the killings but also the harassment and terrorism towards the Manobos.Pastoral-Statement-on-the-Plight-of-our-IndigenousPeople-of-Surigao-del-Sur
“Thus we call for the disarming and arrest of the members of the Magahat-Bagani group. We also demand the government to ensure that there will be no cover-up in the investigation of these gruesome murders,” the priest added.
The diocese’s statement also suggested that the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights lead the investigation.
“This is necessary as the AFP must also be subjected to the investigation, and no other than a powerful executive department and a constitutional body must lead this important task,” Father Galela said.
Meanwhile, the faith-based civil society network Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) said that the investigation should also look into the possible culpability of the mining companies operating in Surigao del Sur as more people has reported to observe the apparent connection of the killings to mining activities.
“While the possible liability of the AFP must be clearly established in the investigation, we think that they should also check if the mining companies have something to do with the killings,” Fr. Stephen Brongcano, Director of the Social Action Center of Butuan, said.
Brongcano is the Point Person of PMPI’s CABUSTAM Cluster, which covers Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Surigao, Tandag, and Malaybalay.
Brongcano recalled that during the Congressional Investigation on the Tampakan massacre in South Cotabato in February 2013, a local government executive and a military colonel admitted that a mining company was funding the military unit that was suspected of carrying out the massacre that killed a B’laan woman and her two sons.
Both Galela and Brongcano said that they are hoping the government-led investigation will be credible and will lead to the prosecution of all people that are liable.
“We want this dangerous cycle to end and the beginning of the end of injustice is to deliver justice to the victims,” Galela concluded.