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Military murder five Manobo in Mindanao

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : Five people from the Manobo indigenous group were murdered on August 18 in Bukidnon, northern Mindanao, by trigger-happy soldiers from the Armed Forces of The Philippines who had accused them of being members of the New People’s Army.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission reported that the oldest of the murder victims was 70-year-old Herminio Samia, and the youngest his grandson, Norman Samia. Samia’s 20-year-old son, Jobert, and his nephews, Emer and Welmer Somina, were also murdered when soldiers burst into the house in Sitio Mandum, Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan.

A 15-year-old, whose name has been suppressed, was with the family at the time, but escaped.

The human rights group, Karapatan, reported that around 3.00pm the family heard gunfire and Jobert Samia suggested the family should look for a place to hide.

However, his father, Herminio Samai, who is blind and has trouble moving any distance, resisted this suggestion, saying that since they were civilians and had nothing to do with the fight, which went on for nearly two hours, they would be safe at home.

As the gun-fire subsided around 5.00pm soldiers gathered outside the house shouting, “You New People’s Army inside the house get out and get down.”

The young ones did as the soldiers bade them and at their command raised their hands above their heads. However, the old father had trouble coming downstairs because of his blindness and also explained that because of problems with his shoulders could not raise his hands.

However, the only reply he got was from a cursing soldier, who screamed, “How can you not come down when there is a staircase?”

The blind man obliged, but because he could not see walked into a tree outside the house. At this point the exasperated soldier pumped bullets into his body.

They then began work on the eye witnesses. Next to be murdered was Emer and the others followed one by one, except for the unnamed witness whose name has not been released, who escaped to his uncle’s place.

The next day, 27 residents, including barangay councillor, Isabero Sulda, went to check on the Herminio home. When they arrived, about 22 soldiers were already there and the local people were ordered by the military thugs to line up.

The soldiers took pictures of the 27 villagers and wrote down their names. They were also warned not to look at the soldiers as they collected the dead bodies.

They saw five dead bodies in the vicinity of the house. The old man’s body was found near the coffee tree. He had been shot in the stomach, his intestines exposed, and had an exit wound at the back. Emer Somina’s body was found near the house door.

Norman Samia was found a few steps away, with his ear removed from his head and his jaw broken. Welmer’s left hand had been severed from his wrist and had a gunshot wound on his nose, which disfigured his face.

Jobert’s body was found near Welmer’s.

The soldiers provided the residents with plastic sheets to transport the remains. They were ordered to take the bodies to a grassy spot at the top of a nearby hill where they were to be loaded into a helicopter.

At the hilltop, the residents were told to prepare the area for a helicopter landing. But then it rained. So they were told to move the bodies to the barangay hall at Madum, Mendis. The soldiers went with them.

Since the incident, members of the Third Company of the First Special Forces Battalion have been encamped at the barangay hall and day care centre where the bodies were taken.