Duterte regime coddles criminals, parades them as surrenderees

During a dialogue between the Commission on Human Rights and Lumad leaders from various communities in Mindanao, Karapatan raised the issue of members of paramilitary groups, who are at-large for crimes of murder and destructive arson being protected by the government, and even paraded as NPA surrenderees. “This is but a cheap trick to make the government look good and triumphant in its counterinsurgency campaign, even at the price of deceiving the public and deliberately withholding justice from the victims, their families, and their respective communities,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. 

A warrant issued on May 23, 2016 by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 28 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, named at least 36 individuals known to be members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group for the willful, unlawful and felonious killing of Datu Juvello Sinzo, among the victims of the September 1, 2015 Lianga massacre. The perpetrators, under the control and acting in cahoots with the 75th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA), also killed Lumad leader Dionel Campos and the executive director of a Lumad school in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Emerito Samarca. Sinzo and Campos were publicly executed, in front of the entire community, while Samarca was likewise brutally killed. The incident also resulted to the forcible evacuation of at least 2,000 Lumad residents in various communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“The warrant was issued almost two years ago, and none of the perpetrators, though identified, have been arrested. Now, in what can only be described as a deceitful and outrageous masquerade,these murderers have surfaced, coddled by the government under the guise of being NPA surrenderees. This is a travesty of justice!” Palabay explained.

Karapatan’s secretary general also raised the issue that the use of paramilitary members to be paraded and presented as surrenderees has been widely used by the military as a money-making scheme. “There are two things to be drawn out from this -- one, this is a glaring signal of the corrupt and treacherous character of state forces, and two, the government’s counterinsurgency plan is far from effective and thus, they have to resort to such theatrics,” she added.

According to reliable information received by Karapatan, among the so-called surrenderrees are paramilitary members of the Magahat-Bagani force who should already have been arrested and surrendered to the court for human rights violations perpetrated in Lumad communities in the Caraga region. Among those who already have a warrant but still was listed as surrenderees were: Datu Calpito Egua, Oscar Egua, Jojo Acebedo, Benjie Martinez, Zaldy Banusan, Joakin/Joaquin Salinas, Roldan Acebedo, Pluto Acebedo, Ramil Pedroso, Rico Acebedo, Arnold Brital, Romeo Banusan, Egoy Perez,Totok Acebedo, Urso Banusan, Ramsy Salinas, Along Salinas, and Rommy Acebedo.

Palabay noted that “instead of imprisonment, these fascist dogs stand to receive cash awards, livelihood support, houses, and whatever the government decides to hand out to these murderers, of course taken from the pockets of the Filipino people. We are paying murderers for their exquisite roles and acting skills as surrenderees, only so they can eventually go back and commit more violations in indigenous and peasant communities! This is the real face of the Duterte regime: no actual solutions on the ground, no justice, only pathetic and desperate charades.”

“Karapatan calls for the immediate arrest of these perpetrators. In the context of martial law in Mindanao and the continuing implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, among other fascist and anti-people policies, such insidious schemes that reproduce the cycle of injustice and impunity ought to be exposed,” Palabay concluded.