Press Release
September 9, 2015


Sen. Grace Poe wants the Senate to conduct an inquiry into the alleged killing of lumads in Mindanao, with the end goal of putting an end to the harassment of all indigenous tribes.

In Resolution No. 1572 filed on Sept. 7, Poe said the inquiry, in aid of legislation, should result in "meting out the appropriate sanctions to those liable, and formulating legislative measures protecting, furthering and improving the welfare of various indigenous peoples and tribes in the Philippines.

The senator expressed alarm over reports that members of the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and a paramilitary group were behind the harassment, killing, and forced evacuation of the lumads in Caraga.

Outrage over the alleged harassment came to a head last week when Emerico Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, was found dead at school, his throat slit.

Witnesses point to the Magahat-Bagani group, a heavily armed paramilitary force, as behind Samaraca's slay. The same group allegedly killed community leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo, who are both fighting for ancestral lands and indigenous people's rights.

Some 2,000 residents fled the village of Diatagon after the three killings. The Mahagat-Bagani group has been wreaking havoc on at least four towns in Surigao del Sur, a local official said.

While the military has denied any association with the Magahat-Bagani force, Poe said the situation of the lumads underscore the constitutional mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in protecting all civilians, regardless of tribe.

"The provisions of the Constitution are once again tested as seriously alarming events that led to the alleged harassment, killings, forced evacuations and dispossession of ancestral lands, among others, in the communities and tribal schools of the Lumad areas in the Caraga region in Mindanao have been reported and exposed," Poe said.

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