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Gunmen torch teachers' cottage at Mindanao tribal school

Military suspected of having hand in latest incident as violence continues

Jefry Tupas, Davao City

Jefry Tupas, Davao City

Published: November 12, 2015 07:37 AM GMT

Updated: November 11, 2015 09:03 PM GMT

Gunmen torch teachers' cottage at Mindanao tribal school

Some 700 indigenous people from Mindanao, collectively known as lumad, are in Manila to dramatize their demand for the withdrawal of troops in tribal communities. (Photo by Joe Torres)

Gunmen attacked and burned down a cottage that housed teachers at an indigenous school in the southern Philippine province of Agusan del Sur Nov. 12, a human rights group says.

Naty Castro, a spokeswoman for Karapatan, accused government troops of having a hand in the incident.

She said soldiers have been conducting military operations in the area since October.

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"They ordered the people to burn down the school, but the people said 'no'," Castro said, adding that villagers have since fled the area for fear of more attacks. No one was hurt in the attack, she said.

The razed structure in Padiay village, Sibagat town, belongs to the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, which has been accused by the military of being a training school for communist rebels.

The school opened in Sibagat town in June 2013 with 24 students. 

"This is the height of impudence," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general. She said that instead of withdrawing soldiers from tribal communities, the government "has instead given the military carte blanche to go on a rampage against people in remote villages."

On Nov. 11, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila called on the Philippine government to withdraw troops from tribal communities after thousands of indigenous people fled their homes because of alleged atrocities committed by soldiers.

 

Killings continue

In the past two months, several tribesmen have been killed by suspected members of Dela Mance, an armed paramilitary group in Mindanao.

On Nov. 7, armed men killed Datu Manliro Landahay, a council member of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, an organzation of tribal leaders in the province of Bukidnon. 

On Sept. 15, Olaking Olinan, a 15-year old Talaandig tribesman, and Obet Pabiana, 30, were also killed.

The same group is suspected of being involved in the death of Mankombate Mariano, 48, and the wounding of his grandchildren on Oct. 10.

One of the children who survived said the men shot them while they were gathering food in the forest. 

The region of Caraga in Mindanao is host to various large-scale mining operations, which rights groups claimed to be behind the attacks on indigenous communities opposed to the operations.

The Philippine military's Eastern Mindanao Command has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks.

Some 700 indigenous people from Mindanao, collectively known as lumad, arrived in Manila Oct. 26 in a protest caravan to dramatize their demand for the withdrawal of troops in tribal communities. 

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