“Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.” — James 3:18 (CEB)
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines vehemently condemns the massacre that recently happened in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon, Liaga, Surigao del Sur killing three Lumad farmers allegedly perpetrated by the elements of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) of the Philippine Army.
On June 15 at about 1:00 in the afternoon while harvesting abaca hemp at their farm, the military indiscriminately fired and caused the death of Willie Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and 12-year-old Angel Rivas. Angel was a Grade 6 student of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) Lumad school. Willy and Lenie were members of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU or Sustainable Struggle for Future Generations). According to reports, they have asked permission from the military to visit their farm. The military have been encamping in the community of Manluy-a for several months and had even established a military detachment in a civilian community in Kilometer 18 in the same town. It was reported that the bodies of the three victims bore signs of desecration, and were brought to the AFP headquarters at St. Christine, Lianga. The military declared the civilian victims as members of the New People’s Army.
This is clearly a violation of International Humanitarian Law. The military have killed helpless and unarmed civilians, and worse, branded them as combatants, and enemies of the state. This is not the first time that this kind of atrocity has been committed in the Liangga community. In September 2015, three lumad leaders were also killed in the same town namely: Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Dionel Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), a Lumad organization protesting against mining operations, land conversions and plantations; and Campos’ cousin, Bello Sinzo.
We grieve with the families of Angel, Lenie and Willy. We lift them up in fervent prayer that justice and mercy shall be given to them. The NCCP is one with our lumad siblings, and in the call to stop killings of lumads and to pull out the military troops from their communities. We also call for a stop to various violations against those advocating for the rights and welfare of indigenous people especially their right to self-determination.
We share this challenge with the NCCP member churches and all IP advocates, let us lend our voices in prayer and solidarity as we call for justice to all the victims of extrajudicial killings and all forms of human rights violations. We call on our member churches to pray and stand with the Lumad communities and open our churches as sanctuaries and use our resources to support and help them.
We also call on the Commission on Human Rights, the House of Representatives and concerned members of the international community to conduct an independent investigation on the various reports of human rights violations perpetrated by state forces and to hold the perpetrators accountable. With the various tragic incidents of violence happening particularly in the countryside victimizing innocent civilians, the NCCP is urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to go back to the negotiating table to substantively address the roots of the armed conflict. Ultimately, the militaristic approach to end the armed conflict in the country has proven to cause more violence on the ground and has never delivered genuine welfare for the people. It has only sown fear, reaped more unrest, and claimed more lives.
Let us all follow the call of Jesus Christ to make peace sow the seeds of justice!
23 June 2021
REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
DRA. GAY B. MANODON
MS. CATHERINE KAY F. ALMARIO
BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA