The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has urged authorities to look closer into the Tumandok killings and ensure that justice is served.
The CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action Justice & Peace/Caritas Philippines said they are referring to the incident in December 2020, wherein nine leaders of the Tumandok tribes in Capiz were killed during the joint operation of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police, in an attempt to issue warrants of arrest against individuals accused of being supporters of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.
In a statement released Monday, the commission said they stand by the leaders of the tribes belying the accusations, saying that the real reason for the harassment was the tribe’s strong opposition against the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam that will displace at least 16 out of 17 indigenous communities comprising the Tumandok.
The commission also echoed the demand previously released by the Western Visayas bishops calling for a thorough yet speedy investigation to ascertain the events of December 30 by an independent body, for a stop to the harassment of individuals and communities with unfounded red tagging and recognizing the legitimate cries of the Tumandok against development oppression.
It also called for an immediate stop to the militarization of the indigenous people communities, and for the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to conscientiously follow the ethical standards in the rules of engagement in all police or military operations including the use of body cameras.
“No one is above the law. We all are morally obligated not to take advantage, but to take care of each other,” NASSA said.
Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, chairman of the episcopal commission, said that despite having reservations due to the increasingly aggressive red-tagging of the military against IP communities in the country, he still believes that “the good will triumph in the end.”
For his part, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza expressed hope that the government and the state forces, who have the ultimate power and resources, will exert utmost care for the country to end the killings.
“We believe that our government has many good people wanting nothing but justice, peace, and compassion to reign. We need them to come out so this kind of violence will prevail no longer,” he said.