US lawyers call out Aquino on Mindanao tribal killings

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(Photo by Lauro Montellano, Jr. / Malacañang Photo Bureau)
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The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive bar association in the United States, has called on President Benigno Aquino III to immediately resolve the killings of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
 
“We are extremely dismayed and deeply concerned about the continuing occurrences of human rights violations under your watch, particularly the massive forced dislocations, harassment, threats, closing of schools, and other attacks on indigenous communities in Southern Philippines,” said NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani.
 
In a letter dated Oct. 13, the group said Aquino has a responsibility to take the following steps:
 
1. Immediately pullout of the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and dismantle the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Force.
 
2. Immediately form an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into these incidents of human rights violations; and, to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
 
3. Dismantle the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which continues to victimize innocent and unarmed civilians. 
 
4. Abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major human rights instruments that the Philippine government is a party and signatory to.
 
On Sept. 1, paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani – allegedly trained and aided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, killed tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo and the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) Emerito Samarca.
 
Samarca’s school was the recipient of the National Literacy Award in 2014 from the Department of Education. It is also being funded by Belgian nongovernment organization Solidagro.
 
NLG is comprised of lawyers, legal workers, law students, and jailhouse lawyers who support social justice movements around the world. It co-convened the International People’s Tribunal on the Crime of the US-Aquino governments.
 
The tribunal found out that the Aquino administration was “guilty of gross human rights atrocities in the form of violations of economic and social rights, political and civil rights, and the right to self-determination and liberation.”
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