Villagers flee after tribal leader’s killing in southern Philippines

Manobo community says government-backed paramilitary group responsible
for multiple attacks

Jefry Tupas and Karlos Manlupig, UCANews –
http://www.ucanews.com/news/villagers-flee-after-tribal-leaders-killing-in-southern-philippines/72274

28 October 2014

Davao City, Philippines – Some 1,600 Manobo tribal villagers have fled
their homes in the mountains of Surigao del Sur province after armed men
killed a tribal leader, shot at homes, and burned houses and school
buildings.

The military said it has launched an “intense offensive” against
communist New People’s Army rebels in at least three hinterland villages
of Lianga town in the southern Philippines, but denied committing
atrocities against residents.

“These allegations are meant to smear the reputation of the military,”
said Major Christian Uy, an army spokesman.

Uy, however, told ucanews.com that the military operation might have
sparked the evacuation of villagers.

The tribesmen fled their homes after the killing of tribal leader Henry
Alameda, 44, allegedly by a government-backed paramilitary unit in the
village of San Isidro.

Alameda was leader of the group Continuing Struggle for the Next
Generation, known by the Tagalog acronym Mapasu, which has been vocal in
opposing plans to mine the Manobos’ ancestral land.

Human rights group Karapatan reported that on the same day Alameda was
killed, gunmen believed to belong to the Bagani paramilitary group also
shot at a village official and his son in the village of San Lorenzo.
The attack resulted in the death of Alden Dumaguit, 21, and the wounding
of his father, village chieftain Undo.

The armed men also shot at houses in the village, injuring two other men
and a child.

Onel Campos, spokesman of Mapasu, said the soldiers entered the villages
on Friday and ransacked a village store, burned a corn husking machine
donated by the Red Cross and destroyed a community school.

“The lives of our people are in danger,” Campos told ucanews.com in a
telephone interview.

“We are trying to assess the damage but presently we have identified
more or less five houses that were destroyed or damaged either in the
fire or during the strafing,” Naty Castro, secretary general of
Karapatan, told ucanews.com.

Captain Jasper Gacayan, an army spokesman, told ucanews.com “that these
incidents happened, but our soldiers are not involved in these activities”.

“The military is adhering to the International Humanitarian Law. If any
witness can help identify the perpetrators, we are willing to help,” he
said.

He also confirmed the existence of the group Bagani, but denied that it
is a paramilitary unit. Rather, he said, it is a group of tribal
warriors formed by another tribal group as a “self-defense” mechanism
against communist rebels.

“We backed up the Bagani because they are also victims of human rights
violations and it is our mandate to protect communities form violence,”
Gacayan said.