MANILA — The government's anti-insurgency task force on Monday presented in a press conference Lianga’s Tribal Chieftain, who said they will hold their own proceedings to investigate the killings of 3 Lumads, including a 12-year old girl, in Surigao del Sur.
"Ang Tribal Council, hindi pwede maipit. Magko-conduct kami ng sarili namin na investigation," Datu Constancio Duhac said at the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's (NTF-ELCAC) press conference.
"Kung meron mang mga problema, na magtulong-tulong kami na kung ano gawin sa problema na ito... Kung ano man ang magiging desisyon. Ongoing ang aming investigation," he added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed their soldiers killed Lenie Perez Rivas, 38, Willly Salinas Rodriguez, 20, and a minor in what they claimed to be an "encounter" last June 15 with the New People's Army (NPA) in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The military claimed the girl was a "child warrior" radicalized by communists.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said last Friday that government troops were able to seize firearms after the firefight which led them to conclude that the 3 were members of the communist group.
According to Lt. Col. Benedict Harvey Gernale, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion, a minor they rescued at the boundary of Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur on June 14 supports their claim that child warriors and civilian minors are being recruited by the NPA.
Several rights groups, however, said the 3 were farmers harvesting abaca and were "indiscriminately fired at" by soldiers.
While Duhac confirmed the 3 killed were members of their tribe, other leaders refused to comment about them allegedly being communists.
"Ongoing ang investigation ng tribal system," said Datu Rico Maca, Indigenous People representative in San Miguel town.
Hernale refused to divulge other details about the three individuals.