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Palace insists tribal complaints baseless

MALACAÑANG denied on Tuesday that the military had made a “hit list” of tribal leaders and some lawmakers who have been trying to help tribal folk, locally called lumad, who have been victimized by continuing violence in Mindanao.

“The Philippine Army denied today with a strong statement the allegations of having an AFP hit list against lumad advocates,”said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. citing a text message from Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla.

“The hit list allegation is a figment of the accusers’ imagination,” said Coloma. “There is no such thing as hit list in the AFP. Everybody knows that only the New People’s Army is making a hit list.”

Stop the killings. KALUMARAN secretary general Dulping Ogan raises his clenched fist as other leaders of indigenous people, locally called lumad, protest the killing of tribesmen in Mindanao during a press conference at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City on Tuesday.  EY ACASIO

“The AFP is the protector of the Filipino people, whatever his or her social, political or economic leaning,” Coloma said, a day after Senators Teofisto Guingona III presented to journalists a 16-year-old lumad who claimed that five of his relatives were killed last Aug. 18 in Bukidnon province.

Even Liberal Party member Chito Gascon, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said “the situation is getting grave [and] there have been horrendous atrocities and crimes perpetrated by persons who should be identified.”

Guingona, also a leader of the Libreal Party, even enlisted his fellow Senators Koko Pimentel and Bam Aquino to join him on Oct. 1 in an on-site investigation of the recent killings of three lumad leaders and displacement of residents in Surigao del Sur.

Guingona also expressed alarm at the atrocities allegedly committed by paramilitary forces in Bukidnon, Surigao del Sur, North Cotabato and Davao del Norte and charged militiamen of “decimating” the lumad in Mindanao.

Supporters of the Aquino administration have tried to defend the killings by arguing that the lumad were being used by the communist rebel movement against the military.

But another Liberal Party member, Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel, and the local archdiocese said the Magahat-Bagani force was created by the military for its counterinsurgency drive.

Even United Nations have accepted the complaint of human rights group that it investigate the evacuation of lumads due to military operations, but the Aquino administration said it is not inclined to send invitations to UN rapporteurs, a required formality.

The human rights Karapatan said it sent its request to Chaloka Beyani, UN special rapporteur on the promotion of the human rights of internally displaced persons; Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, special rapporteur on the rights of the indigenous peoples.

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