CHR: Lianga, Pangatucan deaths are 'extra-judicial killings'

Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Sep 19 2015 06:41 AM | Updated as of Sep 19 2015 02:41 PM

"Junjun", a minor and lone survivor of the Bukidnon massacre. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

The recent slays of three men in Lianga, Surigao Sur and five others in Pangatucan, Bukidnon were not offshoots of a lumad tribal war but extra-judicial killings, according to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Chito Gascon.

Tears flowed during the three-hour dialogue between the CHR en banc, lumad victims of human rights abuses, and representatives of rights watchdog Karapatan.

After perusing photos of the aftermath of the Lianga killings and hearing witnesses, Gascon told the lumad:

“Just looking at the pictures, even without completion of fact-finding mission, we at the CHR can say clearly these were extra-judicial killings and we condemn these. In law there is a saying res ipsa loquitur; the thing speaks for itself. Not just in Liangan but also in the case of Junjun (not his real name, the lone survivor of the Pangatucan massacre).”

As 16-year-old Junjun recalled how soldiers allegedly belonging to the 1st Special Forces Battalion killed his kin one by one, Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Liangan lumad leader Dionel Campos, silently wept as she touched the young man’s shoulder to give comfort.

WITNESSES

Gideon Galicia, the young Alcadev volunteer teacher who was the last person to see Emerito Samarca alive, narrated how paramilitary troops entered their school and how they later shot dead Campos and Datu Juvelo Sinzo.

Bai Josephine Pagala, vice chair of the Kasalo Lumad group, said the two men were gunned down in front of her house.

She showed the CHR commissioners photos of Samarca, who was found with his throat slit; Campos, who had part of his head blown off and Sinzo, who also suffered broken arms but struggled for life for half an hour after the shooting.

Pagala also showed pictures of Army soldiers occupying Alcadev structures, the cooperative burned down by the paramilitary troops, and a building that was set on fire but which residents managed to salvage.

She told the CHR that on the eve of the massacre, soldiers warned residents to prepare for their companions.

Hours after the soldiers pulled back to nearby hilltops, the paramilitary troops entered Alcadev in the pre-dawn hours.

They held Samarca but ordered teachers and students to march to Km 16, where they had also gathered other residents.

Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon assures lumad victims of human rights violations of full support. He condemned the perpetrators of the recent massacres in Lianga, Surigao Sur and Pangantucan, Bukidnon. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

BUKIDNON MASSACRE

Junjun recalled how soldiers came on the hut of 78-year old Herminio Samia a day after an encounter with New People’s Army guerrillas.

The old man and his family were farm hands in a sugar plantation owned by the barangay captain.

Samia, who is called Datu Intabol in their community, is also the second highest chieftain and a member of his tribe’s council of elders.

Herminio was blind from old age. Junjun said he had to help his father when soldiers summoned him.

He saw them shoot Herminio by a coffee tree.

Soldiers then ordered down Junjun and his brothers, Joebert, 19, and Emir, 20, and cousins Norman, 13, and Elmer, 17.

They made the five young men kneel in a row. Junjun said they asked soldiers to arrest them instead. But troops proceeded to execute them one by one.

Junjun said he would have been third in line for killing. He bolted and managed to escape, heading straight for the barangay center to report the killings.

Bai Josephine Pagala shows photos of the aftermath of the Lianga killings, which happened right in front of her house. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

‘I CANNOT BELIEVE THEM’

The Army insists it was a legitimate encounter. Police probers say a paraffin test on the dead men proved positive for nitrates.

Karapatan, however, has said the test is seldom conclusive; farmers normally handle nitrates as part of their tasks.

Gascon said: “Kahit sinasabi ng military na encounter ito, paano ang isang bulag na 78 years old ay maging isang NPA? Si Ka Herminio ay hindi ko maaring tanggapin na totoong commander ng NPA. Si (Junjun), 16, si Norman, 14. Paano masasabing NPA sila?”

(Even if the military calls it an encounter, how can a blind, 78-year old be an NPA? I cannot accept Ka Herminio was an NPA commander. And (Junjun) is 16 and Norman, 14? How can you say they are NPAs?)

Although CHR probers still need to collate all data on Pangatucan, Gascon said the commission is ready to condemn the killers of the five men.

Junjun, soft-spoken, slim and with a face of a younger boy, told the commissioners he has never studied and neither reads nor writes.

Yet he told his story clearly, in a straightforward manner, even as he struggled to hold back tears.

‘SETTLEMENT’

Karapatan told the CHR that 27 male residents of the community went to investigate. Soldiers met them and claimed the dead men were NPA rebels.

They ordered residents to wrap the bodies and take them to a plateau for pickup by a chopper.

Rain and fog forced a change of plan. The bodies were taken to the barangay center and then loaded on a vehicle. Troops then brought the slain men to Valencia City and had the bodies embalmed.

They were only brought back on August 20, two days after the massacre. After a one-night wake, the families of the victims buried them.

During the hearing, the CHR was told that the AFP sent an emissary to the family of Samia on August 28.

The Barangay IP mandatory Datu Teodoro Solda said soldiers wanted to “settle” with the family of the slain men and asked them to name their price.

The family refused.

Junjun, in tears, challenged the commissioners.

“Angay ba bayran ang kinabuhi sg mga lumad? Mahimo ba patyon lang ang mga lumad ag bayran ra? Di mi ana masugot! Bayran ang kinabuhi namon nga patay na. Di ko magsugot bayaran lang kami mga lumad. Himu-on dautan, himu-o kawatan.”

(Is it right to just pay for the lives of the lumad? Can you just kill the lumad and then pay for that? We cannot accept that. You pay us for lives lost. I cannot accept that you can just pay us off and then present us as a menace, as thieves.)

As he pleaded for justice, fellow lumad and some CHR regional directors wiped off tears.

Gascon said condemnation is not enough. For justice to be served, he urged witnesses, victims and Karapatan officers to help the CHR with documentation.

Gascon promised to push for a speedy probe by the Department of Justice.

In Surigao Sur, a CHR director said, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has volunteered to help take depositions from the hundreds of witnesses to the Lianga massacre.