Subject: [Karapatan HR update] DOJ told: Dismiss trumped up charges vs Surigao del Sur teachers, community leaders
Press Statement
June 2, 2017
Maria Sol Taule, Karapatan Legal Counsel, 0927-6443745
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580
DOJ told: Dismiss trumped up charges vs Surigao del Sur teachers, community leaders 
Teachers from Alternative Learning for Community and Agricultural Development Inc. (ALCADEV) and the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), and leaders of Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) sought an audience today with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to call for the dismissal of fabricated charges of trafficking filed against twelve (12) educators and community leaders from Lianga, Surigao del Sur. 
Those charged are among the key witnesses to the September 1, 2015 massacre in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, where ALCADEV school director Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo. On December 16, 2016, military-backed complainants Rosalinda Tejero and her two sons Saniboy and Reneboy Tejero Acebido filed charges against the twelve individuals, who are also among the evacuees then who fled the community after the attacks by paramilitary groups and soldiers. 
“These cases, clearly instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) particularly the 401st Infantry Brigade and 4th Infantry Division-Philippine Army, are retaliatory and desperate measures of the AFP to harass and intimidate those who pursued charges against the perpetrators of the Lianga massacre. It is meant to villify self-help Lumad schools and progressive indigenous people’s organizations,” said Karapatan Legal Counsel Maria Sol Taule. 
A week after the massacre, murder charges were filed against elements of the Magahat, a paramilitary group. Witnesses also testified in Senate hearings and before the Commission on Human Rights on the complicity of the soldiers in the brutal killings. 
Karapatan said that the harassment suits were also meanto to force the community leaders to back down from their staunch opposition to the entry of large mining corporations in their ancestral lands. The twenty two communities in the area led by MAPASU were able to subsist through building the indigenous people’s capacity and unity for sustainable livelihood and alternative education, through TRIFPSS and ALCADEV. Since 2005, these communities and schools were made targets of the military for their opposition to projects that destroy their lands.  Residents from communities evacuated almost every other year, forced by military operations in the locality. 
“Even then, de facto martial law has existed in Mindanao, enabling the AFP and its paramilitaries to wantonly violate the rights of the Lumad. Also, some of the respondents in these cases have also been falsely charged before by the military,” added Taule. 
On September 7, 2016, the teachers and community leaders filed a petition for review before the DOJ stating that the charges are based on perjured or false testimonies and that the allleged crime has not been established, and thus are intended for the persecution of the respondents. 
“There is no reason for the DOJ to further prolong the resolution of these cases, towards the granting of the teachers’ and community leaders’ petition and the eventual dismissal of the complaint. Considering all the facts of the case, it is clear that the AFP is targetting teachers, schools and communities, tagging them as NPA schools and teachers. The DOJ must swiftly resolve the petition for review in favor of the respondents,“ ended Taule. ###    


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.