Manila: The senate peace panel is urging an in-depth investigation into killings targeting members of indigenous communities as the death toll rises with the recent assassination of two tribesmen by communist guerrillas.

Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, chair of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, is calling on his colleagues in the Senate to immediately hold an investigation into the killings haunting lumads of members of indigenous communities.

“Clearly, this is not the rule of law; clearly, this is anarchy,” Guingona maintained

The human rights group “Karapatan” had alleged that members of a paramilitary group supposedly supported by the military, the Mahat/Bagani Force or Marcos Bocales Group, killed three lumads or members of the indigenous peoples community last September 1 in Diatagon village in Surigao del Sur’s Lianga town.

But the military defended that an investigation conducted by the Army Board of Inquiry indicated that the incident has something to do with an internal conflict among tribal groups.

“The incident in Sitio Han-ayan was a tribal conflict within the context of insurgency, that is, one tribal group affiliated with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) while the other is an anti-NPA tribal group,” Maj Gen Oscar Lactao, an army division commander based in the South said.

Lactao’s statement somehow gained credence amid reports that another two members of another lumad group were slain, this time in the village of Lilingayon in Valencia City, Bukidnon last Sunday by the NPA.

Reymund Dayo Licanay, 21, and Roy Dayo Licanay, 18, were supposed to be hunting wild animals for food when they were allegedly killed by rebels. The victims were brothers and they belong to the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon, the armed forces Civil Relations Service said in a separate statement.

According to Datu Uba Lucbay Bayawon, a tribal elder in the area, the NPA rebels tried to recruit the victims, who also are his nephews, but the latter two refused.

Guingona said it is important that the government conduct an investigation into these killings. He said some members of tribal communities were able to carry high-powered firearms that are apparently being used to intimidate people.

Likewise, he also questioned why the police and military are seemingly helpless in addressing these peace and security concerns involving lumads.

In Surigao del Sur, the lumad community had been living in fear following recent incidences of violence targeting their communities.

“The widespread terror also frightened and drove away lumads from their homes, making them a significant addition to the number of internally displaced people in the country,” Guingona said.