A group called Lumad Mindanao, which claims to represent 33 tribes from Mindanao, asks the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army not to drag them to their propaganda as their people have been suffering because of the conflict. Photo by Frances Mangosing
TAGUM CITY—Two months after the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani killed three people in Lianga, Surigao del Sur province, forcing more than 4,000 Manobo villagers in five towns to flee their homes, police have yet to catch a single militiaman.
“It’s difficult to hunt these suspects down because they operate in a vast mountainous area encompassing several municipalities,” Supt. Martin Gamba, Caraga police spokesperson, told the Inquirer by mobile phone on Monday.
Communist guerrillas also roam the area, Gamba said.
On Sept. 1, dozens of armed men belonging to the Magahat-Bagani group arrived in Sitio Han-ayan in Diatagon village, Lianga, and killed “lumad” leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Livelihood and Development, a school for lumad (indigenous) youths.
A local court has issued warrants to arrest three suspected leaders of the anticommunist group—Bobby and Loloy Tejero, and Garito Layno—and other unidentified people.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel has complained of alleged government inaction to arrest the suspects. “It has been two months and still no arrest has been made,” he told the Inquirer in an interview in Tandag City. “If they (police and military) have the will, they can do it.”