CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Bloodletting goes on

MANILA (UCAN): Alibando Tingkas, a 15-year-old from the Manobo people, was shot dead in the southern Philippine province of Davao del Norte on January 17.

Tingkas becomes the latest victim in a spate of murders of indigenous people in the southern region of Mindanao in recent months.

According to the human rights group, Karapatan, 28 children, 12 of them from indigenous tribal groups, have been murdered since 2010 when the government intensified military operations in areas suspected to be lairs for Communist rebels.

Figures detailing the exact number of murders of indigenous peoples over the last few months are sketchy, but rights groups claim that there have been more than 140 victims since the current government came to power in May 2010.

Tingkas, a third grade pupil at the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centre in the village of Talaingod, was walking with two friends when they encountered the Alamara, a paramilitary group operating in the area.

The Bishops’ Commission on Indigenous Peoples has called for an immediate investigation.

“We are saddened by this unfortunate event and the commission extends its condolences to the family of the victim,” Tony Abuso, the coordinator of commission, said.

“We should uphold the rights and dignity of every human being especially those of indigenous peoples,” Abuso added.

Abuso’s sentiments were echoed by the Redemptorist priests, who helped fund the building of the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centre in 2013 to promote the basic rights of tribal people through education.

“We are dismayed by the recent events, especially since the victim was a student of the school that we built,” Father Carlos Ronquillo said.

Father Ronquillo added that the recent blood-letting is aimed at creating “an atmosphere of fear to stop the school from educating the marginalised Manobo community. The killing of Tingkas should be solved in the soonest possible time.”

Carlos Conde, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in The Philippines, said this is not the first time that tribal children have been harmed or killed by paramilitary groups.

“This underscores the need for the Philippine government to investigate thoroughly and independently these incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable,” Conde said.

He pointed out that violence against tribal people in Mindanao has gone on long enough, adding, “The government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the abuses of paramilitary groups.”

Rius Valle, a spokesperson for the Save Our Schools Network, an organisation helping to educate tribal children, expressed fear that the incident will cause a renewed evacuation of tribal communities.

Some 700 villagers have not returned to Talaingod after fleeing their homes last year out of fear of harassment by paramilitary groups.

 

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