BUTUAN CITY – Along with some local government units (LGUs) here, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is now working on bringing before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands the series of killings of indigenous peoples (IPs) allegedly perpetrated by the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Caraga region, particularly in the province of Surigao del Sur.
The NCIP and LGUs said they would be bringing these “diabolic and dastardly acts” to the international arena so that the international community would know the atrocities being committed by the NPA on highland natives, particularly the killing of their leaders.
This came after the ambush-slaying last week of Hawudon Jumar Bucales, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga town, which was the latest in the spate of killings among members of the Manobo tribe
In a virtual press conference initiated by the Army’s Third Special Forces Battalion (3rd SFBn), with LGU, military and police officials in Lianga town on Wednesday, October 7, NCIP Chairperson Allen Capuyan said the killings constitute crimes that are punishable under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and other international laws.
In a strongly-worded statement, the NCIP chair said the agency will file appropriate charges against the leaders and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA, in violation of the provisions of Republic Act 9851, otherwise known as the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity”.
“Justice must be served upon Datu Jumar Bucales and the rest of the IP leaders and members killed by the NPA rebels in Mindanao,and other parts in Caraga region, particularly in Surigao del Sur,” Capuyan emphasized.
He said that the IPs, who comprise 15 percent of the nation’s population, occupy around 30 percent of the land area in the country which they consider as ancestral domains.
Unfortunately, he said these areas were also the targets of the NPA rebels where they regularly intimidate and harass vulnerable tribal communities.
“The government must look at what are the real happenings inside the ancestral domains. The killing of Datu Bucales and other IP leaders manifest the continuing atrocities of the NPA on the IPs in Surigao del Sur,” Capuyan said.
Bucales was killed in an ambush perpetrated by NPA rebels last October 4 in Sitio Mamparasanon, Barangay Banahao, Lianga.
In the same virtual press conference, Lianga town Mayor Novelita M. Sarmen, 3rd SFBn commander Lt. Col. Joey B. Baybayan, Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office provincial director, Col. James T. Goforth, and the command group of the Army’s 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade also vowed to support the filing of charges for violations of RA 9851 against the CPP-NPA.
They also filed a case for violations of RA 9851 against the NPA for the killing of Datu Bernandino Astudillo this year.
Astudillo, a 73-year-old Manobo tribal chieftain of Barangay Magroyong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, was hacked to death by the NPA last March 19.
Local authorities called on the IP communities to support the planned charges by providing the testimonies.
On the other hand, Surigao del Sur Gov. Alexander T. Pimentel also issued a statement strongly condemning the killing of Bucales and an IP soldier identified as Pfc. Ariel Guinsod Maca.