Groups set HR fact finding mission to San Fernando

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News.Net/12 November) A group led by KALUMBAY Regional Lumad Organization and Karapatan Northern Mindanao Region has scheduled a fact-finding mission on alleged human rights violations in San Fernando town, Bukidnon from November 17 to 19.

Dubbed as Interfaith Solidarity Mission (ism) in Defense of Indigenous Communities Fighting Impunity, the mission is organized to “call on the Philippine government to stop the escalating killings of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders working on land rights in Mindanao,” according to an emailed invitation from Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM, event coordinator.

“The output could be used in filing of charges on human rights violations, for policy advocacy, and for report to local and international bodies like the Asian Inter-Governmental Human Rights Commission and the United Nations, and to various foreign consulates in the Philippines,” the group said in a statement seeking media coverage.

In a four-page backgrounder, the group cited continuing harassments in Brgy. Dao after its village chief Jimmy Liguyon was slain on March 5, 2012, a crime that radio station DXDB reported to be admitted by local paramilitary group called the New Indigenous People’s Army for Reforms (NIPAR).

The participants intended to conduct key informant interviews and review of secondary data subject to a “participatory process.”

Liguyon was known to family and supporters to have opposed mining. Reports said the Salusads, father Benjamin and son, Alde were behind the killing. The younger Salusad owed the killing in an interview with DXDB in Malaybalay, the group said.

The groups cited that a warrant of arrest was issued against Salusad and 14 others after police investigated the killing and murder charges were filed. But it was never served.

Col. Rustom Duran, then provincial police director, repeatedly told provincial legislators and reporters about the police teams’ difficulty in pursuing Salusad.

The group also lamented the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines who they said promised to investigate but allegedly released to investigation report.

Anilaw Inlantong Erwin Marte, focal person of the Bukidnon Human Rights multi-sectoral coordinating council, where CHRP is a member, told MindaNews Monday they have eyed a multi-sectoral fact finding mission on their own.

The killing brought two major displacements; on March 14 and August 29. The evacuees in the first, about 43 families, encamped in front the Capitol to exert pressure for the arrest of Salusad. They said they also did so to escape alleged harassments from the suspect.

After several failed attempts of negotiation, the Liguyons and their supporters went home on August 7 even if their demand for the arrest of Salusad was not yet realized.

The provincial government announced the release of P15,000 each per family with a third of it to be handed in cash. The rest will be in the form of farm inputs as support to their livelihood.

Leah Tumbalang, spokesperson of the evacuees clarified to Bukidnon News via telephone in August that going home did not mean they were giving up their search for justice for Liguyon’s death.

The Liguyon family considered the welfare of the children in their decision, she added.

But in the email, the group said despite the decision of other families to return, the Liguyons refused it.

The second group arrived on August 29. They stayed in front the Capitol up to date.

But the evacuees’ stay, around 35 families from Kiranggol, also in Dao, was marked with complaints of harassments and controversy.  For one, the provincial government denied the group’s attempt to pitch tents in the area used by the first group of evacuees.  They were able to occupy the area on October 22, with the help of a multi-sectoral protest backed by Anakpawis and other allies.

The evacuees reported that despite police statements that Salusad is hard to pursue, the suspect lived scot-free in Dao, San Fernando town.

The groups cited in the emailed material that the mission is meant to gather information on the circumstances of alleged human rights abuses linked with a paramilitary group and security forces and to enable filing of appropriate charges afterwards.

They also cited that it will help consolidate indigenous peoples groups to stand against human rights abuses and internal displacement, and that it will be a dialogue between affected groups and concerned local and national government agencies and units.

But the group stressed that they want to gather “broad support” for the campaign to arrest Salusad and to stop NIPAR.

KASILO, an organization of Matigsalug minorities based in San Fernando, Bukidnon is hosting the three-day mission, which includes medical and relief services, too.

Other groups behind the solidarity mission includes the community-based Health Services (CBHS-Northern Mindanao), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), and the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP) (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)