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Daughter of slain Lumad leader to UN rights expert: Impunity persists in the Philippines

Filipino delegation at 31st UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva

March 4, 2016

GENEVA, Switzerland – Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Lumad leader Dionel Campos, and Karapatan human rights workers Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay and Karapatan-Caraga coordinator Dr. Naty Castro, met United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst in the sidelines of the 31st UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, Switzerland on March 2.

In the said meeting, Campos narrated the September 1, 2015 killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, where her father, grandfather Datu Juvello Sinzo, and school director Emerito Samarca were killed before the whole community.

"Six months after the incident, not one of the three named perpetrators has been arrested. This is the kind of impunity that is perpetrated by the Aquino regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines – they do not arrest criminals in their ranks and among paramilitary groups. They even have drinking sprees with them," Campos said, recounting her relatives' experience on December 30, 2015 when they saw Loloy Tejero, one of the suspects at large in the Lianga massacre case, having a drinking spree with members of the 75th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army.

Castro said that the more than 2,000 evacuees in Tandag, Surigao del Sur continue to suffer the consequences of such impunity. "It is worrisome that the issues of increasing military operations in Mindanao, including indigenous peoples' communities, and plunder of their ancestral lands remain low among the priority electoral issues among national candidates," she stated.

Palabay said Karapatan notes and appreciates Forst's report in the 31st UN Human Rights Council on the cases of attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines delivered on March 3, 2016.

In the said report, Forst stated that he "considers the killings of Messrs. Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Bello Sinzo to be systematic of the aggressions suffered by human rights defenders in rural areas and indigenous communities in response to violations committed in the course of environmentally dubious mining operations, wide-spread development of monoculture plantations, land grabs and territorial disputes."

He expressed regrets that there were reports of further killings in Mindanao after the September 1, 2015 massacre in Surigao del Sur. He urged the Philippine Government to "take every possible measure to ensure that these extrajudicial killings do not remain in impunity, for fear of the potential encouragement a lack of justice would provide for any potential perpetrators of such acts in the future."

Forst also lamented the attacks against human rights workers of Karapatan, specifically the surveillance and intimidation of its members, as a result of their legitimate human rights activities and exercise of rights to freedom of expression and association.

Karapatan also submitted complaints on the following violations on human rights defenders to Forst:

a) Killing of Karapatan-Sorsogon spokesperson Teodoro Escanilla and peasant leader Sixto Calcena;

b) Trumped up criminal charges against teachers of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and indigenous people's leaders of MAPASU, more than fifty human rights defenders including Karapatan human rights workers, church and community leaders in Sarangani and General Santos City;

c) Threats, harassment and surveillance on leaders of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) and Children's Rehabilitation Center (CRC);

d) Harassment and violation on the right of freedom of movement of former Rep. Liza Maza; and,

e) Illegal arrest, detention and harassment of peasant leaders in White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

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