September 4, 2015,
H E Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
The Canadian Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines joins the Filipino human rights defenders, educators, people’s organizations and international rights groups in strongly condemning the massacre of five Manobo farmers at Sitio Mandum, Brgy. Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon on August 18 2015.
Those killed were Emer Somina, aged 17, Welmer Somina, aged 19, Norman Samia, Aged 14, Herminio Samia, aged 70, Jobert Samia, aged 70. As well, a 15 year-old who witnessed the massacre was able to escape.
The perpetrators of this crime are alleged to be the 3rd Company of the 1st Special Forces Battalion, commanded by Capt. Balatbat. Col. Nasser Lidasan was the Battalion Commander
On August 18, 2015, Herminio Samia, 70, his son Jobert, 20, his grandson Norman, 13 and his nephews Emer and Welmer Somina had lunch at his house at Sitio Mandum, Brgy. Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon. A 15 year-old relative whose name is withheld was also with them.
According to the KARAPATAN report, at around 3pm on August 18, 2015, these six farmers heard gun fire from the forest. Jobert immediately suggested to go to a safer place but Herminio said they were civilians with nothing to do with the fight. Herminio could no longer take long walks for he was old and blind. The gun fire lasted for more than one hour.
At 5pm, when the gun fire had subsided, they heard someone from outside the house shouting, “Kayong mga NPA na nandyan sa itaas ng bahay, lumabas kayo diyan at bumaba dito!” (You NPA inside the house get out and get down here!) The boys were forced to come down and immediately saw the soldiers who ordered them to raise their hands. Herminio, on the other hand, explained that it was difficult for him to go down because he is blind but a soldier said, “Litse, bakit hindi makababa ay meron namang hagdan!? (How can you not come down when there is a stair”). So Herminio struggled to come down from the house. Being blind, Herminio did not know where to go and started to stray until he reached a coffee tree. The soldiers shot Herminio. Then they shot his nephew Emer. The eye witness was the next target but he was able to run. He hid behind big rocks, which became his cover until he could reach the house of Orenio Samia, his uncle.
The next day, 27 residents, including barangay councilor Isabero Sulda, checked Herminio’s place. When they arrived about 22 soldiers who ordered them to line up, took their photos and listed their names. They were warned not to watch the soldiers as they collected the dead.
They saw Herminio Samia’s body near the coffee tree. He was shot in the stomach, his intestines exposed and had an exit wound at the back. Emer Somina’s body was found near the house’s door. Norman Samia was found a few steps away, with his ear removed from his head and his jaw broken. Welmer’s left hand was cut off from his wrist and had a gunshot on his nose, which disfigured his face. Jobert’s body was found near Welmer’s.
The soldiers gave the residents plastic canvass and ordered them to take the bodies to the grassy part on top of the hill to be loaded into a helicopter. At the hilltop, the residents were told to prepare the area where the helicopter could land. But then it rained. So they were told to move the bodies to the barangay hall at Madum, Mendis. The soldiers went with them.
The 15 year old witness, after telling his uncle what he saw, has not spoken since.
On August 30, members of the 1st Special Forces Battalion were still encamped at the barangay hall and at the day care center where the Samias and Seminos were killed.
Excellency, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we ask that you condemn the massacre at Pangantucan, Bukidnon on August 18, 2015, and order an immediate pull-out of the 1st Special Forces Battalion from Bukidnon and end this dirty war against the Filipino people.
We further urge your administration:
1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into the massacre of Herminio, Jobert and Norman Samia and Emer and Welmer Somina.
2. To arrest and prosecute the soldiers involved in the massacre.
3. To withdraw your counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.
4. To observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that the Philippine government is a party and signatory to.
Finally we call on your administration and all its institutions to uphold the basic human rights of the citizens whom you have sworn to serve.
For human rights and peace,
Representative, Coordinating Committee
Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin, Secretary, Department of National Defense, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Atty. Leila De Lima, Secretary, Department of Justice, Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Robert Douglas Nicolson PC,QC,MP Email: email@example.com