Press Release
September 14, 2015

Transcript of Speech and Interpellation of Senator TG Guingona

Senator Pimentel. With the consent of the Senate, I ask that we recognize Senator Guingona to speak on a matter of public interest.

The President. Senator Guingona is recognized on a question of public interest.


Senator Guingona. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, before I proceed with my speech, I notice there are students here. I would like to warn everyone. The pictures will be seen will be quite gory. So, kung mahina po ang tiyan ninyo o kung may mga bata po rito, please take them out of the room. O kung mahina ang tiyan ninyo, I am forewarning everyone that there will be quite...

Mr. President, I am here to report on what happened on August 30 up to September 1 in the municipality of Lianga, Province of Surigao del Sur.

On August 30, Mr. President, soldiers from the 36th Infantry Battalion, 75th Infantry Battalion and the AFP Special Forces, together with a paramilitary group called the "Magahat-Bagani Force" conducted community relations operations on that day in a remote village in Sitio Han-ayan. Sitio Han-ayan is a place inhabited by Lumads. Sa Tagalog, ang tawag diyan mga katutubo. Pero sa Mindanao, ang tawag namin doon, mga Lumads. More or less, between 1,000 and 2,000 individuals po sila.

The sitio is inaccessible, it is in the middle of the jungle, the forest. A few days before they reached the village, they had a send-off. Even the governor was there, the mayors were there in Tandag, they had a send-off. And so, there we could see the soldiers, together with the paramilitary group, conducting civilian relations operations.

Next slide, please.

So, on August 30 again, they arrived and they occupied the function hall inside the school. The school grounds of the school called "ALCADEV" which is an acronym for the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Livelihood and Development. Next slide, please.

On August 31, more military men arrived and they occupied the makeshift shed in front of the teachers' cottage of the school.

Now, on September 1, sometime...During the evening of August 30, the military left, the army left the place and they allegedly camped around one to two kilometres away from the sitio. On September 1, around four a.m., a group of paramilitary--not the military--but a paramilitary group called the "Magahat-Bagani" fully armed, stormed the village. They knocked on the doors of everyone living there, told everyone to get out of their house, and they were all herded into the village's basketball court. While this was happening, while everybody was herded in the basketball court, members of the Magahat-Bagani stormed the ALCADEV school also and they were looking for Emerito Samarca, the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center. They did find him in the school, on the second floor, they accused him of being a member of the NPA. They tied his hands sa likod, they tied his legs and they stabbed him in the chest, and thereafter, they slashed his throat from ear to ear.

Next picture, please.

That is the picture of Emerito Samarca, the executive director. That was how he was found. He was found around seven o'clock in the morning. The students of ALCADEV and some community members found him in that state. His hands and feet were tied, his throat was slit, and he was stabbed on the chest.

While all this was taking place in the basketball court, Dionel Campos who is a community leader in that sitio Han-ayan was told to sit down in front of the community. Sa harap ng mga bata, sa harap ng mga nanay at sa harap ng mga tatay na nakaharap doon sa basketball court, pinaharap si Dionel Campos, pinaluhod at binaril sa likod ng ulo in front of the community.

If you will notice the back of his head, there is a hole. This was done in front of children and women.

There was also another person, kawawa naman talaga, his name was Jovelo Bello Sinzo. He was not a member of the community. He was a member of another barangay, but he had a relative who died there at may burol. So, nag-attend siya ng burol. That was where the Magahat-Bagani found him. They herded him to the basketball court in front of the women and children. They asked him, "Makakasiguro ka ba na itong mga ito", pointing at the community, "babalik sa gobyerno?" Whatever that means. Syempre si Mr. Sinzo said, "Hindi ako makasalita para sa kanila." At noong sinabi niya yan, he was shot in front of the community.

That is the picture of Mr. Jovelo Bello Sinzo.

After they shot those two, they started indiscriminately firing all over. Buti na lang, wala nang tinamaan. But there was firing all over. Then after a while, the Magahat-Bagani left the community. And in the morning, when the community members returned to sitio Han-ayan or the area where they had a community cooperative, they found, as we can see, it was burned to the ground.

And what happened to the school where they executed Emerito Samarca, the executive director? As we can see, when they returned in the morning, it was still burning. The community members were able to put out the fire. That was what happened during the day of September 1.

A lot of questions are being asked now. First question, this incident happened within a radius of one to two kilometers away from where the military was encamped, may putukan ng baril during the night not once, not twice, but many times. Bakit? Bakit walang pumunta? Bakit walang military ang tumulong o nag-imbestiga man lang? And to this day, I have been informed that the Magahat-Bagani are in the next municipality, the neighboring municipality of Barobo. They are there right now, in fact, in Barangay San Vicente and they are going from house to house. Kumakatok sila bahay sa bahay at sinasabi nila, "Dati nagbabayad kayo ng taxes sa NPA, ngayon sa amin naman kayo magbabayad."

I talked to the governor of Surigao del Sur, and I asked him, "Teka muna, hindi na iyan sa bundok, diyan na iyan sa baba. Nandiyan na sila sa baba at nagha-house to house. Bakit walang nangyayari? Nobody is stopping this group. Iyong pulis, governor, sabi ko, nasaan ang pulis?" Ang sabi niya, "Ayaw makialam ang pulis, ayaw gumalaw ang pulis dahil daw military matter." Mr. President, this is the state that we have right now in certain municipalities in Surigao del Sur. Clearly, this is not the rule of law; clearly, this is anarchy. Some say that this was done because they were sympathizers of the NPA, especially daw iyong executive director na tinorture nila, na pinutol nila iyong leeg from ear to ear. Well, I did ask the governor and he swore to me that that person was not a member of the NPA, was not even left-leaning, he was just there to help the community run the school, teach the children, teach the farmers.

Mr. President, why are people who are not members of the police, who are not members of the military, going around with high-powered firearms, shooting people, torturing people, knocking on doors, extorting from citizens? Kawawa naman ang mga mangingisda at mga magsasaka. They tell me, noong araw, diyan sa Sitio Han-ayan, noong wala iyong military, dumarating ang NPA at ini-extort din sila, at tina-tax sila. They call it the revolutionary tax. At minsan ay may executions din sila. Pag-alis ng NPA, darating ang paramilitary group at i-accuse sila na pro-NPA sila. Tino-torture rin sila, tina-tax din sila o ini-extort sila. Who do they turn to, Mr. President? Where is our government?

Mr. President, I think it is time that the Senate, as an institution, put its foot down and do our little bit in restoring the rule of law. Let us conduct an investigation. And the request of the governor is, let us conduct an investigation not here in Metro Manila, but there in Surigao del Sur so that he can bring the witnesses, the numerous witnesses, the numerous victims, the wives of those of who have died to testify, to tell what has happened.

And these are the questions: No. 1, Why are the armed forces did not do anything?; No. 2, Why are the police not doing anything also when they have armed men knocking on doors of civilians? Mr. President, I think it is time that we, as an institution, do our share. This situation is alarming; this situation seems like there is anarchy in Surigao del Sur.

Mr. President, I ask that the Senate acts now; that the Senate, as an institution of government, do its part. Let us restore the rule of law in Surigao.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. The Majority Leader is recognized.

Senator Pimentel. Mr. President, Sen. Loren Legarda wishes to be recognized for interpellation.

The President. Senator Legarda is recognized, if the gentleman from Bukidnon will yield. Senator Guingona. Yes, Mr. President, most certainly.

Senator Legarda. Yes, Mr. President. First of all, I would like to associate myself with the good gentleman from Mindanao who has delivered an impassioned plea, an impassioned speech to condemn the Lumad killings not only in Lianga, Surigao Sur, but in other parts of the country.

This incident is not isolated. This incident should not be tolerated. This incident, indeed, must be wholly condemned by the institution. And yes, I agree with the gentleman that a Senate investigation should be conducted right away and justice must be served not only to the three deceased persons and their families, but all the previous Lumad killings in different parts of the country.

In fact, Mr. President, I authored a Senate resolution on this subject, dated September 8, 2015. I am not certain to which Senate committee it was referred. If it was the Justice and Human Rights Committee or perhaps my committee as Chair of Cultural Communities or the Local Government Committee. May we know and I would join the good gentleman from Mindanao.

Last week, Mr. President, a 13-year old girl, a Lumad was here. And her father was one of the victims mentioned by the good gentleman. I am not certain which is her father but she was here. Last week, I introduced her. She was wearing a Manobo costume and she was here with one relative who was just carrying out and we could see that their faces were still stunned from what happened a few days ago. Some people had helped them to come over to seek help and I gathered information and that is the basis of the resolution which this representation filed.

Your Honor, I would just like to be clarified on certain matters.

ALCADEV, Mr. President, is this an alternative learning center that is registered with the Department of Education? Is this a government learning institution that is authorized by the DepEd that is partly funded by government in Lumad communities that actually graduates Indigenous Peoples or Lumads, as we call them in Mindanao? And has it graduated students since it was created in 2004?

Senator Guingona. Well, the exact status escapes me right now, Mr. President. But that is one of the things we also would like to look into.

Senator Legarda. To my knowledge, Mr. President, it is, in fact, a registered, duly certified DepEd institution. Because in my understanding, in fact, when we hear the budget of the Department of Education, we will find out how many such Lumad alternative centers are there in the country. If the information given to me is accurate, it means that this is not a seat of NPA activities and, therefore, a murder as gory as what was projected on screen should not have happened. And assuming even that they are NPA sympathizers, assuming that their ideology is akin to those of the New People's Army, such violence is still not warranted. It does not matter. Even NPAs are not deserving of such brutality, Mr. President, that is my opinion.

And so, we want to know in how many Lumad communities or even Indigenous Peoples Centers, which are DepEd communities around the country, does this violence actually happen from paramilitary groups?

My next question, Mr. President, the Mahagat-Bagani Paramilitary Groups, who is the head of this? Are they Lumads as well or are they from other groups? Are they Lumads or non-Lumads? Who created them? Who armed them? Are they recognized by the mayor, by the local PNP, by the military, by the governor? I understand they have been there since the Arroyo administration.

Senator Guingona. Yes, I understand, they were organized during the Arroyo administration and I was made to understand they are made up of Lumads just as well. In fact, from what I heard, they are rebel returnees and also Lumads. Who armed them? Now, who has the capability to arm them with high-powered firearms? What is clear also is that they are moving around with impunity, walang pananagutan at kahit anong gusto nilang gawin, nagagawa nila.

Senator Legarda. Mr. President, nakakapagtaka, binanggit po ng Ginoo na taga-Mindanao na malalaking armas ang ginamit ng paramilitary forces na ito. Saan sila kukuha niyan kung walang nagpopondo sa kanila?

Senator Guingona. That is a question which needs an answer, and I hope we can get the answer during the Senate hearing.

Senator Legarda. May I know, Mr. President, the gentleman may have the information, how many members does this Bagani group have?

Senator Guingona. Mr. President, I have no knowledge of the numbers that they have. There are figures bruited about but, of course, being an informal gangster or I would call them a gangster organization, I do not know how many members they have.

Senator Legarda. Mr. President, this happened in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao Sur. In April 1999, I went to Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao Sur. It is a logging area. It is a mining province. Is it possible that these paramilitary forces are created by such logging or even mining interests?

Senator Guingona. Well, I will not jump into that conclusion immediately. It is true, one of the leaders, iyong pinaluhod nila sa harap ng community at binaril sa likod ng ulo, was the head of a group that was against mining. But the Executive Director of ALCADEV, the Learning Center, which the lady Senator said is a DepEd accredited institution...

Senator Legarda. Based on information I gathered.

Senator Guingona. ....Yes, is certainly not against mining, they are just there to help the community and provide education to the community.

Senator Legarda. The gentleman is correct. And whether they are pro or against mining, it does not justify being beheaded. I was just informed that the 13-year old girl, the young Lumad girl who visited the Senate who I spoke with last week was actually the daughter of Samarca, the ALCADEV's Executive Director. She was here last week. I should have introduced her to the gentleman, she is 13 years old. I also understand that Senator Marcos has a similar resolution. It was referred to my committee, Cultural Communities. And along with the gentleman's speech, I will hold a hearing soon on this.

Another issue, Mr. President. This happens in a barangay. What does the barangay captain say? It happened in Lianga. What does the mayor say? What does the chief PNP say? Our newly-confirmed AFP Chief of Staff, Iriberri, is from the same province, Surigao Sur. I talked to him last week and he said he is just as concerned as we are. We have a newly confirmed competent gentleman General Iriberri. He is concerned, and he said he will not tolerate the military assisting or providing support to these paramilitary forces. And he claims that he is one with us in ferreting out the truth and providing swift justice to those who murdered these three Lumads.

So, here we have. I wonder what the barangay captain says. Because it is a small barangay, it is a small town. And if the governor is helpless and calling the help of national officials, then the situation must be so bad.

Senator Guingona. The situation is alarming. The governor was with me yesterday and we were talking. He was telling me he has been trying to stop this, he has been appealing to the authorities that have the wherewithal to stop this, mainly the military and the police. But it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Senator Legarda. The gentleman was saying it was just a kilometer away from the nearest military checkpoint or detachment.

Senator Guingona. It is a detachment, I understand. One or two kilometers, to quote the governor.

Senator Legarda. And he went to them and they did not want to interfere...

Senator Guingona. No, no, when the incident happened, the military was one to two kilometers away. So, if they were one or two kilometers away, tapos mayroong nagpaputok ng baril, not once, not twice, but many times, maririnig nila iyon. At siyempre nanggaling sila doon kasi just the other day doon sila nanggaling mayroon silang ipinakitang pictures. Doon sila nanggaling, doon sila gumawa ng community operations, yet walang pumunta. Walang pumunta.

Senator Legarda. The gentleman is correct, Mr. President. Based on the stories related to me by the daughter of the slain executive director, they were brought to a basketball court--maybe that was part of the pictures that the gentleman showed--and they were just massacred in front of more than 50 families belonging to Barangay Diatagon, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. It was very traumatic for all of them and I could see it in the face and the eyes of that young girl. So, this is very alarming, using the words of the good gentleman. And what does the gentleman think, Mr. President, is the way forward in the investigation of this incident?

Senator Guingona. Actually, investigation is one thing that we can do. But the first thing that has to be done is action. There must be action by the military. It must be concrete. It must be felt immediately by the community and it must be communicated to the country what they are doing to stop this.

Senator Legarda. It should be the military or the DILG, the PNP.

Senator Guingona. As far as the Magahat-Bagani, then it should be the military. But as far as the Municipality of Barobo, where they are knocking on doors from house to house, that is a police matter. And the police refused to move. Para saan pala iyong police? I think the DILG Secretary should look into the matter. And I think we should either replace this police force with the police force that is willing to do its duty to protect the citizens. We cannot have a police force that will not move whenever there are armed men in the community. Para saan pa? There must be action on the part of the military and the police, concrete, visible action. And this action should be communicated so that people will know. So that trust can go back to the government.

Senator Legarda. Mr. President, I can already hear and foresee what the officials will tell us in the hearing. They will say that those who were killed were NPAs. That it was an operation because the Barangay Diatogon in Lianga is really, in a way, a NPA territory. In fact, that is where I rescued at that time Sgt. Alpio Lozada when he was captured by the CPP/NPA/NDF in 1999. And I went to a logging area, a logged road, into the jungles to meet the NPAs who handed over Sgt. Alpio Lozada. So, it is possible that they will tell us that it was actually an operation against the NPAs. But even if, assuming they are NPAs, they do not deserve to be killed that way or killed at all.

Senator Guingona. Yes, Mr. President. Iyon ang unang tinanong ko kay Gov. Pimentel. Ang sabi ko, "Ano ba ito baka mga NPA?" Ang sabi niya, "Matagal ko nang kilala ang mga taong iyan. Hindi iyan mga NPA. I know them. I live there. I know these people." So, I will take his words at it. Secondly, when I was looking at the Philippine Daily Inquirer--I do not know if this will help--yesterday, I came across an article about the ALCADEV in that particular place, specific place and they had a picture of Angel Locsin. She spent two days there immersing, not to do a film. She participated in the community activities.

Senator Legarda. In 2009.

Senator Guingona. Yes. I think she wanted to do her bit to help out and she did. So, I do not know if that will help. But, to me, these things, taking into account the word of the governor, mabigat iyon. Governor iyon. Nakatira iyon doon. Kilala niya iyong mga tao. So, I know it can be painted that way. But still, tama ka, Mr. President. Sabihin mo assuming mayroon, hindi siguro natin maiiwasan na mayroon, hindi ba? Siyempre, mayroong mga element doon. Pero still ano ba tayo, ano ba iyong lipunan natin? Are we a government of men with arms, or we are a government of law? May proseso tayo. Kung mayroong subversive, kung mayroong kriminal, kung mayroong rebelde, arestuhin natin. Tapos dadalhin natin sa jail, tapos papaylan natin ng kaso sa piskal. Iyon ang proseso ng batas. Hindi iyong proseso ng batas na kukuha ka ng tali, itatali mo iyong kamay ng tao sa likod, tapos ilalabas mo iyong kutsilyo mo, at i-slit mo iyong throat niya. Hindi iyan ang lipunan natin, and most certainly hindi ganyan ang gobyerno natin. Kailangang maibalik natin ang tiwala ng tao sa gobyerno natin diyan sa parte ng Mindanao.

Senator Legarda. Mr. President, it has been three weeks since this happened or, at least, almost a month, I think. Is there any police report on what transpired?

Senator Guingona. I am not aware, Mr. President. In fact, I would like to say that it was only last night that I was able to talk personally to Governor Pimentel and he was the one who supplied those pictures.

Senator Legarda. In that case, Mr. President, the resolutions have been referred to my committee and I will conduct the investigation soon.

Senator Guingona. Just one more point, Mr. President.

I think it is timely now that we take up in the next few weeks the bill on internally displaced persons because this is a clear case of a whole community being displaced. Ang sabi ng Magahatma-Bagani, "Pag hindi kayo umalis dito, siyempre may mangyayari sa inyo". So the whole community went down from the mountain. They are now in Tandag, Surigao del Sur being fed every day. These are evacuees. These are families that have been internally displaced.

We do have a bill, Mr. President. It has been passed in the Lower House, dito na lang sa Senado. That makes it a crime on top of all other crimes to displace communities and this is one case that cries out for the passage of this law.

Senator Legarda. Thank you, Mr. President, and we will hear this soon. I once again thank and congratulate the gentleman for bringing this to national attention. And I hope that even if it is no longer discussed in media, that justice will be served these three and more Lumad killings that may have not reached the front pages of our dailies.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Senator Guingona. Thank you, Mr. President.


News Latest News Feed