Community based health programs demand immediate justice for Lianga massacre victims

Press Release

September 3, 2015

Eleanor A. Jara, M.D.
Executive Director
Council for Health and Development
0927-9259413 / (02) 929-8109

The Community-Based Health Programs (CBHPs) of the Philippines call for immediate justice for development worker Emerito Samarca, indigenous people’s leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo. The three development workers were barbarically murdered by heavily armed men identified as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-backed paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani Force last September 1, 2015. Campos and Sinzo were publicly executed by heavy gunfire, while Samarca was found with multiple stab wounds and his throat slit ear-to-ear inside the school premises in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Samarca is the Executive Director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), also a member of the CBHP, which supports underprivileged indigenous peoples’ communities through livelihood and education. Campos (chairperson) and Sinzo (member) of MAPASU (Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod or Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) are active defenders of human rights and ancestral lands for indigenous people in Surigao.

Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, executive director of Council for Health and Development (CHD), the national organization of 64 CBHPs nationwide, said “As fellow advocates of community welfare, the CBHPs condemn the continuous military-backed harassment and killing of community leaders. The AFP continues to receive a huge chunk of the national budget and has boasted of using it for peace and development. On the contrary, human rights violations attributed to the military and military-backed units have only intensified within the Aquino administration — nothing new since the Martial Law era.”

The people of Mindanao, especially the indigenous people, are already deprived of social services and continue to suffer because of the massive land-grabbing, environmental destruction, mining-company incursions, and militarization. Like the CBHPs, organizations such as ALCADEV and MAPASU support and unify these communities to attain the basic rights that the government has failed to provide.

“Attacks on community-based workers are attacks on the people themselves. It is imperative that paramilitary forces are disarmed, and the military pull-out of indigenous peoples’ communities. We call for an immediate and independent investigation on this recent spate of killings and the perpetrators of this heinous act be punished to the fullest extent of the law. CBHP also calls for an end to impunity and justice for the Lumad peoples of Surigao,” Dr. Jara concluded.##