A SCHOOL director and two other civilians were killed by suspected members of paramilitary groups Magahat and Bagani, as the armed men went on a rampage in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on Tuesday morning.
While the rest of the residents gathered at the middle of the community, the dead body of Emerito Samarca, the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), was found inside one of the schoolrooms with stab wounds.
The two civilians who were identified as Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo were reportedly strafed by joint forces of Magahat and Bagani around 4 a.m.
The Alcadev, which celebrated its Founding Anniversary over the weekend, was established as a school for the indigenous peoples or the lumads.
A statement furnished by Karapatan-Caraga revealed that elements of 36th Infantry Battalion (IB) and paramilitary groups Magahat and Bagani entered the vicinity of Alcadev and threatened to massacre all of the people there should they not evacuate after two days.
Alcadev's executive director Samarca was last seen being detained by members of Magahat inside the Alcadev.
Karapatan-Caraga secretary-general Eliza Pangilinan, in her statement, said that soldiers belonging to the 36th IB were seen patrolling in the area during the harassment, but clarified that no actions were taken.
Pangilinan hinted that the Army and those military groups are working together since no clear action was taken.
"Despite the presence of the military in the community for the security, the killings continue to happen," Pangilinan said.
"We call on the law enforcement agencies and legal prosecutors to investigate the increasing rate of these killings," she added.
Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) spokesperson Captain Alberto Caber, however, refuted allegations that the 36th IB has any involvement in the incidents.
"Walang katotohanan yang mga allegations ng Karapatan. Hindi controlled ng Army ang mga nangyayari dito (There is no truth to what Karapatan had said. The Army has no control over what’s happening in the area)," Caber said.
Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Akas, commander of the 36th IB, said the killings were due to a feud between two parties.
Both the Army and the Philippine National Police were already tapped to normalize the situation in the area, Caber said.
"Okay na ang situation doon (The situation there is back to normal)," Caber added.
Lumads belonging to tribes in Surigao del Sur have long been complaining of militarization of their communities, but these have consistently been denied by authorities. Many have sought refuge in Davao City's Haran House, where North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco tried to force them out in what she called was a rescue operation.