BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur (MindaNews) — A series of killings, threats and harassments over the past months has alarmed indigenous people and civilian communities in this town. A report submitted to the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Western Mindanao said that there have been 15 killings in the months of May and June.Timuay Lucenio Manda, barangay captain of Conacon of this town, said that of the 15 cases, 12 were politically motivated, and that eight of the victims were lumads.
Among the cases documented by poblacion barangay captain Horace Paul T. Andap was the controversial death of 10-year-old Neknek S. Galaman, whose body, beheaded and with stab wounds, was found in a forested area. He reportedly visited an uncle at Conacon. The parents of the victim suspected that a 15-year-old neighbor committed the crime last April 26 although motive was unclear. The series of killings was contained in a report dated June 17 and submitted to the CHR by Andap.

On May 6, a group of armed men at Barangay Dimalinao indiscriminately fired at the houses of Roger B. Sotillo, Rico Sotillo, Rosalie Regulacion, Jerry Balendres, Rio Balendres and Jimmy Tanggot. The strafing killed Melanie Perocho while both the Sotillo brothers were seriously injured.
Around that time, also in Dimalinao, Dodong Tapdasan and Reynaldo Bali were shot dead and their dead bodies bore stabbed wounds, too.
On May 31, former barangay councilor Julieto O. Ayawon was hacked and beheaded while he was on his way to transport his passengers to Barangay Sigacad.
On June 1, brothers Topen and Sampie Esig where shot dead and stabbed while they were on their way to collect the allowance of Sampie’s wife Teresa, a barangay councilor of Bantal.
On the evening of same day, a pedicab driver and palay harvester Larry C. Doyugan was shot dead near the Sibugay River by suspected armed men and “made the victim an object of their shooting range.”
On June 3, Jopie Dominguez Tapdasan, 21, was hacked to death by unknown suspects at Barangay Pulangbato. Jopie is the younger brother of Dodong who was earlier killed on May 6.
A certain Dodoy Gundae was also killed on June 13 due to his alleged involvement in highway robberies and gun-for-hire activities.
Late night on June 14 a certain Allan Villegas Canoy, caretaker of a rubber plantation, was abducted at sitio Marao of Barangay Depase. His dead body was recovered by police authorities a day after.
Cecil de Joya, of the Medical Action Group who joined the fact finding mission conducted recently by human rights groups coming from 11 civil society networks and partners, noted that 12 of the 15 cases were politically motivated. “Police authorities interviewed on these matters recorded that suspects are unknown, and thus the crimes remain unsolved,” she said.
SPO2 Marchel J. Belza, women desk police officer of Bayog, pointed out that there apparently is a liquidation group in the town who gets paid from P15,000 to P20,000 to carry out the killings. Running after the suspects is reportedly difficult because most crimes happened in remote hinterland villages.
The three-day fact-finding mission was joined by representatives of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (KsK), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Dipolog-Iligan-Ozamiz-Pagadian-Ipil-Marawi Committee on Mining, Inc. (DCMI), Social Action Ministry of Ipil (in Zamboanga del Sur), Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., Miriam College, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), Ecoweb Inc., Medical Action Group (MAG) and Pikhumpongan Dlebon Subanen Inc. (PDSI) The mission was prompted after the series of killings was reported to Dipolog Bishop Jose Maguiran and to networks of civil society advocating human rights. The FFM will also formulate recommendations for government, agencies and partners for possible interventions. (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)