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PIA Press Release

CHR to probe 18 extralegal killings in Agusan del Sur

Butuan City (28 January) -- The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) started its two-day public inquiry Thursday at the downtown hotel and convention center here, on the alleged 18 extrajudicial killings which victimized mostly indigenous people (IP) in the landlocked province of Agusan del Sur.

The string of extrajudicial killings appear to be related to the simmering rivalries between warring local clans.

Summoned thereto were the complainants and witnesses in various extralegal killings being investigated by CHR-Caraga region, including the killing of the Manobo chieftain and relatives of the Ondo Perez clan.

Also invited were provincial officials of Agusan del Sur led by Governor Maria Valentina Plaza, Caraga regional officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), barangays officials, and military and police officers having jurisdiction over the areas where the killings occurred.

Explaining the rationale for the public inquiry, CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima said "After further follow up investigations in the wake of the Dec. 10, 2009 incident allegedly perpetrated by the Ondo Perez group, we are certain that the abduction was only a strand in a greater scheme of impunity, criminality and violence gripping Agusan del Sur."

Reports from the informants and from the CHR regional office in CARAGA show that the Ondo Perez Group is not the only group operating in the province and perpetrating the crimes.

De Lima remarked, "The killings in Agusan are related to warring tribal groups or factions. It certainly does not help the situation when the military and police appear to be pitting one indigenous peoples faction against the other."

It can be recalled that members of the Ondo Perez group lamented that their rivals were not being pursued for criminal activities, and only their group was the subject of the police manhunt that ended with the abduction of at least 57 civilians including children last month.

"This is a crucial detail in uncovering the true circumstances of peace and order in Agusan del Sur, particularly on the conduct of law enforcement," added De Lima.

"Not only does it bode unfavorably for the police and military, but it corroborates long-held suspicions that clan-related violence is sanctioned by law enforcement agencies. There is this suspicion that they are pitting armed group against each other. For what purpose, we are not sure," she further added.

"But we do know that it perpetuates the string of killings in Agusan Del Sur," De Lima said.

From the records of the CHR-Caraga regional office, there are at least 18 extrajudicial killings that are almost certainly related to the clan wars in Agusan del Sur.

De Lima said, "These killings are definitely part of the puzzle and that is why we are not narrowing the investigation into the abduction incident or even the Ondo Perez faction. There are more personalities involved, more human rights violations occurring in Agusan del Sur and therefore, a more complex problem for peace and security in the province requiring a comprehensive solution. Finding a complete and thoughtful solution is the purpose of this inquiry, and we must begin with culling all the information that is available."

De Lima and Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag, the focal Commissioner for Caraga, will lead the inquiry, assisted by CHR Caraga Atty. Marylin Pintor. (muc/PIA-Caraga) [top]

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