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Murdered Lumads’ children appeal to the pope

MANILA (Agencies) : “They were killed mercilessly. Right in front of their loved ones,” Michelle Campos said in describing the death of her father on September 1 at the hands of militia in Liangga town in Surigao del Sur.

“I can’t understand why they killed my father, who only wanted to help our tribal people and to develop the land of our forefathers,” the distraught youngster told CBCP News as she and Rachel Libora, whose father has also been murdered, set off to Manila to hand a letter to Pope Francis to the apostolic nuncio for delivery through a diplomatic pouch.

Libora believes the pope can help them “because he has a deep, genuine concern for the poor.” 

She said they particularly want the pontiff to give attention to the plight of thousands of Lumad children who are caught amid massive militarisation of indigenous communities in Mindanao.

“We just want to go back to our village. We want to go back to our school and study again,” Libora said.

She added that people will remain under the threat of being murdered and even being victims of a wholesale massacre if the government does not dismantle the paramilitary group.

“Peace in our community is impossible until the paramilitary group is gone,” she added.

About 580 families or 2,800 people fled their homes following the brutal murders.

For almost a month, they have been languishing in a sports complex in Tandag City.

Local officials said the Lumad refugees who are getting sick inside the evacuation centres are mostly children, women and elderly people, and the number continues to rise.

The common illnesses are respiratory, fever and diarrhea.