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Lumad killers identified

POLICE have identified at least three suspects in the killing of a Lumad teacher and members of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur, and government forces are hunting them down, the military said  Friday.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the suspects were identified as Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero and Garito Layno in the town of Lianga, where some 2,000 members of the Manobo tribe live.

Martinez said the suspects were identified after a thorough investigation by the Philippine National Police following  week-long campaign of harassment against the Lumads  allegedly  carried out by the Magahat (not Mahagat as first reported) Bagani Forces, a paramilitary group said to have been created by the Army to fight communist rebels.

The teacher, Emerito Samarca, was stabbed and his throat was slit, while Dionel Campos, 42, and Orelio Senso, 61, both residents of Diatagon town, were shot dead.

About 2,000 Manobos have fled their homes for fear of their lives.

Martinez said 20 John Does were included in the charge sheet for grave coercion, multiple murder, arson, robbery and grave threats filed against the suspects at the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Sept. 7.

Investigators have yet to determined the affiliation of the suspects but reports said they were members of the Magahat Forces, a vigilante group operating in the hinterlands of Lianga town.

But Martinez denied that the suspects were members of a paramilitary group under Armed Forces control, as leftist lawmakers and civil society groups have claimed.

Col. Isidro Purisima, Commander of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, said he was elated that the suspects have been identified, and that they would fully support the PNP in law enforcement oeprations in the area.

He added that “the AFP adheres to the law of the land” and also denied that the suspects were part of a paramilitary group working for the Army.

He said such groups, known as CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) were organized to protect their communities against “any threat group.”

“The CAA is the only legitimate force being supervised by the AFP. Other armed groups shall be the subject of law enforcement operations conducted by the PNP,” Purisima said.

Samarca, the murdered tribal school director, was to be laid to rest at Uraya’s Cemetery in Butuan City  Saturday  afternoon.

Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), is survived by his widow, Mrs. Yosie Tampos Samarca, and four grown up children.

Mrs. Samarca said an ecumenical service would be held at Guingona Park.

“On Sept. 11 evening, foreign funders and Belgian funders of ALCADEV will hold a vigil here in our house and will join the funeral march to the final resting place of my slain husband” Mrs. Samarca said.

“We expect fellow activists from Belgium, Manila and local activists based from different parts in Caraga region and Mindanao will join the funeral march  on Saturday. Students and teachers of different ALCADEV schools in Caraga Region will also join. It will be huge gatherings of activists here,” Mrs. Samarca added.

Mrs. Samarca said eyewitnesses told her that the three killers were accompanied by about 20 others, including members of the Army’s 75th  and 36th  Infantry Battalions.

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