Food security network mourns brutal killing of ALCADEV director; calls for Protection of Lumads
The entire Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) is in mourning due to the brutal murder of Emerito “Emok” Samarca, Executive Director of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development), and our fellow in the CARAGA region.
Nong Emok, as we fondly called him was killed by members of the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani on September 1, around 4:00 am, while sleeping in one of the quarters at the school compound of ALCADEV in Km. 16, Diatagon, Liangga, Surigao del Sur. The two others killed were Dionel Campos, Chairperson of the Malahutayong Pakigbisogalang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), and his cousin Bello Sinzo.
According to witnesses, Samarca was detained by some armed Magahat. He was last seen with ropes tied around his neck, hands, and feet, then brought inside one of the classrooms. He was later tortured, stabbed to death bleeding in the faculty room at the second floor of the school building. We are enraged and are strongly condemning such acts of violence against development workers, Lumad communities and ALCADEV, said Estrella Catarata, Executive Director of PNFSP.
ALCADEV is Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development. It is an agricultural school providing education to Lumad youth with primary focus on sustainable agriculture where the government failed to provide such. The Lumad students are housed in the school dormitories growing their own nutritious food in a sustainable and more productive ways. The school is also teaching its students and the communities the preservation of Indigenous knowledge and culture that give much value and importance to the Lumad’s right to their ancestral domain. In operation for 10 years, they are already able to produce more than 200 graduates wherein some of them are already teachers themselves in the said school, some are already working as agriculturists in several NGO’s. In 2001 and 2005, such positive impact given to the Lumads and the entire community earned for ALCADEV a credible recognition by the local government unit in Liangga and even in the entire province. Even the Department of Education is acknowledging such efforts as they were given National Literacy Awards.
Indeed, such efforts of ALCADEV have provided a bit of alleviation to the hunger situation and suffering of the Lumads in the community. It is important to note also that the students in ALCADEV and MAPASU are highly active in the struggle against the intrusion of large scale mining companies, big logging operations and threats of oil palm plantation as the rest of the Indigenous Peoples affected by these big projects of the multi-national corporations. We cannot think of any other reason why ALCADEV and the IP communities around have always been subjected to harassment and human rights violations by no less than the 36th Infantry Battalion assigned in the area, Catarata said. In fact, several Lumad communities in Mindanao are under attack by the government’s soldiers and their organized para-military troops who have become the protectors of these multi-national corporations at the expense of the local people, the environment and the country’s food security. These areas of the Lumads and ALCADEV are within the Andap Valley Complex which is for large-scale mining and Oil Palm plantations as pushed by the government. Hence the deployment of “investment security forces” employing the foulest means to quell the Lumads steadfast defense of their ancestral lands.
The AFP has to answer for having organized and backed up the Magahat/Bagani paramilitary forces in their rampage. The lumad communities of Lianga, San Miguel and San Agustin have been demanding the dismantling of these paramilitary forces since last year. Complaints have been filed against them along with public condemnations of such acts. Instead of disbanding these paramilitary forces, the operating troops of the AFP, particularly the 36th IB PA and the Special Forces have stepped up their recruitment and employed them in their military operations, committing human rights abuses. Other agricultural schools managed by PNFSP members such as TRIFPSS (Tribal Filipino Program for Surigaodel Sur), CLANS (Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services), and MISFI (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation) are also experiencing military harassment.
The government have already been negligent in providing basic services especially education to these Lumad people. They have long been suffering from hunger and poverty. They have always become hapless victims of land deprivation. No less than the Governor of Surigao del Sur in an interview condemned the killings and laid the blame on the AFP for organizing the paramilitary forces (Interaksyon.com). These killings must be stopped. We challenge the Aquino government to give meaning to “Daang Matuwid” that shall embody human rights and end these senseless killings that victimizes civilians. We call on the Commission of Human Rights and well-meaning senators to investigate these cases, the Department of Justice to prosecute the perpetrators of these dastardly acts. Lastly, we are calling on all the well-meaning civil society organizations both internationally and nationally to stand together in defense of the Indigenous Peoples and of the human rights defenders under attack. ###