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Indigenous murders connected with land grabbing

NORZAGARAY (Agencies) : Brother Martin Francisco, who works among the Dumagat people of Sierra Madre, expressed deep concern and regret over the murder of three civilians in Surigao del Sur on September 1.

The murders are believed to have been carried out by the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani (see page 5).

The Blessed Sacrament Missionary of the Poor told CBCP News that he fears similar incidents can happen to other indigenous communities in the country if the government continues to remain blind to their plight.

“Government authorities must do all they can so that victims of crime get the justice they deserve. They should see to it that this will not happen again in the future,” Brother Francisco said.

He lamented that injustice directed at indigenous peoples and their communities continues to take place despite laws that protect their rights.

He said that the Dumagat communities have been exposed to similar harassment in the past and believes it comes from powerful interests looking to take over land.

“We have received death threats from armed thugs wearing bonnets. There have been efforts to intimidate us. But thankfully, we have so far not had face-to-face encounters with them,” he said.

He refused to identify the culprits, but confirmed that they have vested interest in getting hold of the ancestral land which by law belongs to the people, which they call Punduhan ng mga Dumagat.