Manila, Philippines – The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) joins the call of Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) for president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to immediately implement measures to protect the Lumad evacuees in Surigao del Sur and issue serious orders to immediately disband para-military groups such as the Magahat-Bagani. On their letter to the president dated September 8, AMRSP strongly called for the president to take immediate action regarding the killing of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (Alcadev) Executive Director Emerito Samarca, Manobo Lumad leader Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo by members of the Magahat-Bagani para-military group last September 1 in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur. Lumad community members testified that the Magahat-Bagani is associated with the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA). The RMP is a Mission Partner of AMRSP.
“We welcome and join AMRSP’s appeal to the president, hence, we are urging all the religious to air the same,” Sr. Francis Añover, RSM, RMP National Coordinator said in a statement.
The AMRSP’s letter also denounced the mass evacuations of Lumads that reached to more than 2,700 presently dwelling at the sports complex in Tandag city of the said province.
RMP also denounced the continuing abuses against the Lumad evacuees that came from San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur. As Benedictine Sister Virgincita Alegado, chairperson of Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), more than 300 Lumad families left their communities at Brgy. Siagao and Tina last August 28, as members of another para-military group associate with Magahat-Bagani, Hasmin has killed Manobo Lumad brothers, Crisanto and Ellie Tabogol. Upon their return to their communities, the Lumads were again forced to leave last September 7 as members of Hasmin again operated around them.
As RMP, it is of our utmost disappointment that the Aquino administration considers the Lumads, not as a people who are in need of support, but as a threat or a mass base of the New People’s Army (NPA). With this mindset, on November 2014, the number of combat battalions under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployed in Mindanao reached to 55, or more than 50% of total forces of the Philippine military. Aside from regular forces, it organized more than 22 para-military groups such as Magahat-Bagani, Alamara, Black Fighter, Ghost, Pangayao-Mapando Group and others to threaten their tribes.
“We hold the Aquino administration as primarily accountable for this gross cruelty as it has wielded to implement its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Añover said.
RMP urged the religious, as well as other sectors to pressure Aquino to respect the rights of Lumad to ancestral land, culture and self-determination. ###
The RMP is a national organization, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of women and men religious, priests and lay. We live and work with the peasants (farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers).