Efforts not enough

Army officer relieved from post, another gets court martial over death of 3 IPs
AN ARMY officer was relieved from his post and another will undergo court martial for reported lapses in securing the area where three Lumads were killed in Lianga, Surigao on Sept. 1.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, Philippine Army chief and former 10th Infantry Division commander, did not reveal the names of the soldiers but he said they were both under the 75th Infantry Battalion based in Surigao Del Sur.

He said the recommendation to relieve the army officer from his post was based on the result of the board of inquiry probe which started immediately after the incident and ended on Sept. 13.

But the report did not find culpability on the two officers on the killing of the Lumads, identified as Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development; Dionel Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), a Lumad organization protesting mining operations, and his cousin Bello Sinzo.

“We also imposed sanctions on soldiers whom we think could have done more to prevent that same incident in the area,” he said.

Earlier, AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri said during a guesting on GMA News TV’s episode last week “Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie Monsod,” that he would not allow soldiers to use their positions to abuse villagers.

“I will not allow that to happen in my province,” he said.

However, Iriberri reiterated that there’s no such thing as militarization, as alleged by progressive groups like Karapatan.

”The military is in the community to protect them from the influence of rebel group,” he said. “We always coordinate when we enter the area. We also try to understand the culture of the IPs.”

Soldiers of 36th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces in Surigao were accused of working in cahoots with a paramilitary group to threaten the Lumad communities in favor of mining companies.

Iriberri also denied the allegation that they are forming a paramilitary group for the Lumads known as “Bagani.” He said the term forms part of the political structure of indigenous people.

Justice Secretary Leilama De Lima earlier created a 16-member team to investigate the alleged systemic attacks against the Lumads of Mindanao, particularly in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

The team was given two months to submit its report and recommendations.

The investigating team is composed of members of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and the National Bureau of Investigation, with NBI Deputy Director Edmundo Arugay, as overall team head.

Last August, armed men torched two cooperativesand killed three in Km. 16, Sitio Han-Ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur in the morning.

Earlier, Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our School Network, in a press conference at Haran compound said the victims were killed by paramilitary groups.

However, Capt. Alberto Caber, information officer of EastMinCom, denied the charge.

“There are no paramilitary groups,” he said. It’s not true, we only have Cafgu (units).”

Meanwhile, Eliza Pangilinan, secretary general of Karapatan in Caraga, challeged law enforcement agencies to give justice to the victims.

“We call on the law enforcement agencies and the local prosecutors to seriously investigate the increasing spate of killings that are perpetrated by these groups,” Pangilinan told TIMES .

Three other soliders will undergo court martial, this time on the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl from Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Caber, said a hearing will be held at 10th Infantry Division headquarters to administer military justice.

“The AFP is serious in the implementation of laws and it does not condone any violations committed by the soldiers,”Caber said.

General courts martial (GCMs) have the authority to mete punishment that is permissible under the law to include confinement for life without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty in cases where it is authorized.

Additional common GCM punishments include:total forfeitures of pay and allowances, a fine, reduction, and a dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge.

Common general court-martial cases include: murder and other levels of homicide, rape and sexual assault, aggravated physical assault and other violent crimes, drug distribution, arson, child sexual abuse and aggravated physical abuse, involvement with child pornography, and high value larceny.

Earlier, Supt. Antonio Rivera, spokesperson of the Davao Police Regional Office, said that one of three soldiers is charged with violation of Republic Act 8353 or “The Anti-Rape Law of 1997,” as the two soldiers were excluded from the case because they already settled with the victim’s family in the presence of Barangay Captain Tagpines of Palma Gil in Talaingod.