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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

West Visayas prelates call for investigation in Tumandok slays

Country’s latest Cardinal join fellow bishops in calling for exhaustive inquiry into Tumandok killings

MANILA – Two archbishops and six bishops from Western Visayas called on the government for a thorough investigation by an independent body on an incident that took place last December 30,2020 where nine Tumandok tribespeople were killed.

In a statement released today and signed yesterday by Capiz Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo O. Lazo and Bishops Marvyn A. Maceda of San Jose de Antique, Jose Corazon T. Tala-oc of Kalibo, Patricio Abella Buzon, SDB of Bacolod, Narcisco Abellana, MSC of Romblon, Gerardo A. Alminaza of San Carlos and Louie Patalinghug Galbines of Kabankalan, the prelates said they “share the griefs and anxieties” of the Tumandok Tribe in Tapaz, Capiz.

They also expressed their concern for those arrested and their families as they “empathize with the FEAR and INSECURITIES of those displaced by the ATROCITIES.”

The Catholic church leaders lamented that “little or nothing at all has been done to do justice.”

“Recently, from Negros Island we are hearing the voices of the blood of those tagged as members or supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). Now, we are hearing it from the island of Panay. Compelling a brother Bishop to say that “the killings were a continuation” of the “mass killings and arrests” of other activists in central Philippines in recent months,” the statement revealed.

The condemned the killings that took place in Western Visayas.

The bishops said in the early morning of December 30,2020, a joint operation of the Philippine Army (PA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to serve 28 search warrants under the Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operation (SEMPO) “resulted to the death of nine (9) people and the arrest of 17 members and leaders of the Tumandok tribes of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo.”

They identified the fatalities and those arrested as former and current village officials and leaders of the group Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sang Duta kag Kinabuhi (TUMANDUK).

It was learned the group is an alliance of 17 indigenous people’s (IP) communities in Tapaz and Jamindan towns in Capiz and Calinog in Iloilo province which strongly opposes the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam. With their opposition, they have become victims of reg-tagging, accused as members and supporters of the CPP-NPA.

The clerics said the families of the victims refuted claims of “nanlaban” as the victims did not resist arrest. “The firearms and explosives were planted. The victims were murdered,” the bishops said in their statement quoting the relatives of those killed.

They reiterated their call for a thorough investigation by an independent body to find out what really happened last December 30,2020, as they called on the government, the church and business community to listen to the legitimate “cries of the Tumandoks” in opposition to the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam and a stop the “militarization” of the IP communities.

The prelates called on the PNP and AFP to “follow conscientiously the ethical standards in the rules of engagement in their police and military operations. They also called on government require policemen to don body cameras during their operations to protect the police from false accusations and the civilians from the “use of violence or abuse of power” by way of “planting of evidence, illegal arrests and even killings.” (Melo M. Acuña)

His Eminence Jose F. Cardinal Advincula. (File Photo/Archdiocese of Capiz)

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