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Two more lumad tribesmen slain

TWO more lumad tribesmen were killed in Valencia City, Bukidnon, Sunday but the Army blamed the communist New People’s Army for the deaths.

In a phone interview, Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, public affairs chief of the 4th Infantry Division, identified the victims as brothers Raymond Dayo Likanay, 31, and Roy, of legal age.

He said the killers were members of the Guerilla Front 68 allegedly led by a certain Alexander Llesis alias Commander Bagwis.

The NPA could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier, five lumad tribesmen, including two minors, were killed in what the military called an armed encounter in Barangay Mendiz, Pangantucan, Bukidnon. But the human rights group Karapatan said the victims were not rebels, and that one of those slain was a blind man.

 Citing reports from the lumad community including one Datu Uba Lukbay Bayawon, Martinez said the Likanay brothers were allegedly held Monday morning by the rebels in the forested area where the two were hunting for wild animals.

In this file photo from 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III shakes hands with lumad leader Dato Domaconog Doming Tumaytay of the Ata Manobo tribe during a visit to Sitio Talos in Barangay San Jose, Sto. Tomas, Davao Del Norte. PNA

“Brutal silang pinatay ng NPA [They were brutally slain by the NPA] under the Guerilla Front 68,” he said.

Martinez said the bodies of the victims were found at 5 p.m.

Quoting a police report, Martinez said the victims were tortured before they were shot dead.

Empty AK-47 and M-14 shells were found at the crime scene, he added.

He quoted Datu Uba Lukbay Bayawon as saying the NPA killed the brothers—his nephews—after they repeatedly refused to be recruited into the NPA.

He added that the two had received threats from the NPA long before they were killed.

The killing of the Likanay brothers come on the heels of a request by Karapatan for the United Nations to investigate the spate of lumad killings in the Caraga region as a result of the military’s intensified counter-insurgency program.

Most recently, a lumad educator and two other leaders were killed allegedly by militiamen belonging to the Magahat-Bagani Forces that were created by the military to go after suspected communist sympathizers.

The military denied the allegations.

 Aside from the killings at least three soldiers were also involved in the rape of a 14-year-old lumad girl. The Army said the suspects, which it refused to identify, would be subjected to court-martial proceedings.

The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Monday President Benigno Aquino III should invite UN envoys to conduct an independent investigation into the killings for the sake of transparency and accountability.

“We seriously doubt that the PNP and the AFP can come up with a credible investigation. All the AFP is doing is clear itself of any liability. Issue the open invitation now, Mr. President. Let the truth come out. Let there be justice and accountability,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Bayan issued the challenge after human rights group Karapatan brought the lumad killings to the attention of the UN.

For the UN to mount a probe, protocol requires that the envoys be invited by the host country.

 “The open invitation should enable the UN representatives on indigenous people, internally displaced persons, extrajudicial killings and human rights defenders to conduct an impartial probe on the killings and other violations,” Reyes said.

 Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay dismissed the Armed Forces suggestion that leftist groups were besmirching their reputation by internationalizing the issue.

“There’s no reputation to besmirch. The AFP’s reputation has long been stained with blood of the Filipino people,” Palabay said.

The AFP is obviously irked by the complaints filed by Karapatan before the United Nations Human Rights Council on the killing of two lumad leaders, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo, and lumad school director Emerito Samarca,” she added.

The killings have caused some 3,000 lumad to flee their homes in Surigao del Sur.

“The AFP claimed it already did its own investigation and immediately exonerated itself from the killing. Are they trying to be funny? Who, in the right mind, would believe in this kind of investigation?” Palabay said.

The AFP is now saying the killing was a result of a tribal war.

Palabay said witnesses recognized the killers, brothers Bobby and Loloy Tejero, who are members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani that were with the 36th and the 75th Infantry Battalion and 1st Special Forces of the Philippine Army when they stormed the targeted community.

In 2012, several international groups called on the government to disband the paramilitary groups.

 UN Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Killings and on Human Rights Defenders,  Christof Heyns and Margaret Sekaggya pointed out the role of the paramilitary groups in the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio.

 The UN Human Rights Council, during the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines, also urged the Aquino administration disband these paramilitary groups.

A labor group on Monday said an inter-agency investigation organized by the Justice Department should also include lumad killings in other parts of Mindanao.

The Partido ng Manggagawa issued the call in reaction to the announcement made by Malacañang that it is willing to conduct an investigation as sought by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and many other organizations here and abroad.

“The killings of lumad  leaders by alleged paramilitary forces in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, including recorded cases of lumad killings in other parts of Mindanao, should give the government the idea that these killings were rather systematic than isolated in nature as claimed by the military,”  the group’s chairman, Renato Magtubo, said.

In Surigao del Sur, an Army junior officer faces court-martial proceedings for failing to respond to the shootings and burning of homes where the lumad teacher and members of the Manobo tribe were killed.

Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao refused to identify the junior officer, however.

The junior officer has been relieved of his duties as platoon leader and is now under the custody of the Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion, Hao said. With Francisco Tuyay and Vito Barcelo

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