Stop state-sanctioned violence: Justice for Lianga massacre victims | Inquirer Opinion

Stop state-sanctioned violence: Justice for Lianga massacre victims

/ 05:01 AM June 25, 2021

We, an association of consecrated women in Mindanao, express both lamentation and rage over yet another spilling of innocent “lumad” blood on ancestral lands.

The blood of Angel and Lenie Rivas, and Willy Rodriguez, “cry out to the heavens for justice.” It is the same cry of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Datu Bello Sinzo who were massacred in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015 by government-sanctioned paramilitary forces.


We grieve with their families and community and with the Diocese of Tandag under the Most Rev. Raul Dael, who held a “Dialogue of Life” with the Manobo of Lianga earlier this year.

Angel was a Grade 6 student of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) lumad school. Willy and Lenie were members of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu or Sustainable Struggle for Future Generations). They were gathering abaca hemp to sustain their livelihood especially in these dire pandemic times when they were mercilessly shot by military men belonging to the 3rd Special Forces of the Philippine Army. The lack of mercy from their attackers is shown by the fact that before they went to their farm, the victims had “sought permission” from the military—an ironic situation because as lumad they are supposed to exercise sovereignty and self-determination in their own land. The military fired upon them with full knowledge of their being civilians going about their daily living. This is, therefore, murder most vile.


Angel, Lenie, and Willy were presented as New People’s Army rebels as the military’s justification for the treacherous massacre. It reflects the state policy of Red-tagging that leads to extrajudicial killings, and extrajudicial killings justified by the Red-tagging of its defenseless victims. The Lianga massacre of 2015 is an example of the former, the Lianga massacre of 2021 of the latter.

We are witness to this ever-widening policy of death and destruction in the many communities where we live out our missionary work, especially among poor farmers, the Moro, and the lumad. Land-grabbing of ancestral lands, killings, forced evacuations, economic and food blockades, forced and faked “surrender” of civilians, the slander and harassment of community leaders, advocates, and support groups—these are clear transgressions against human dignity and human life.

Our witnessing comes with the realization that the fullness of life for the Manobo as envisioned by the Most Rev. Ireneo Amantillo, the Bishop of Tandag during the dark days of martial law when he pioneered the TRIFPSS school, necessitates a sustained work for justice, the same principle lived out by the “malahutayong pakigbisog” of Mapasu.

As consecrated women, we commit ourselves to this work of justice for the Lianga massacre victims. We affirm God’s love, mercy, and justice for them and their communities. We are not dismayed in the face of this violation of justice and righteousness against the poor. We take comfort in the certainty that the high officials who perpetrate this violence and terrorism shall be made accountable to yet Higher Ones over them. The instrumentalities of human rights nationally and internationally are higher levels of accountability. The upcoming elections provide another arena for accountability in terms of raising awareness and providing guidance in choosing leaders that uphold life and human rights. The peoples’ movement for social justice, while vilified and violently repressed, journeys on even more resolutely to bring about Shalom. And, above all, we are strengthened in faith in our God of History, who walks with the people in building the “kin-dom” of solidarity, peace, and justice.

Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin), [email protected]

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TAGS: Lianga massacre, Lumad, Manobo, Mindanao, red-tagging, state-sanctioned killings
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