By DAVAO TODAY
Davao City, Philippines – Some Agusanon Manobos (not Agusanons as earlier reported) who evacuated from Loreto to the provincial capitol gym in the town of Prosperidad to evade military operations were hurt by police Sunday morning as they were making way for a medical mission team.
Hanimay Suazo of Karapatan Southern Mindanao who was with the medical team coming from Davao said police blocked them from entering the capitol compound in Patin-ay. These prompted the Manobos to go out from the gym and demanded the police to let them bring in the medical team.
But the police refused and after a heated exchange they pushed away the lumads, resulting to some getting bruised. Suazo said 75 people including women were hurt.
Some 300 of the Agusanon Manobos have been encamped at a gym inside the provincial capitol compound since Friday night as they demanded provincial governor Adolph Edward Plaza to pull out military operations of the 26th Infantry Battalion in their communities in the town of Loreto.
Suazo in a phone interview said she accompanied the medical team, which was part of Balsa Mindanao who helped the Manobos during the Typhoon Pablo disaster last December. She was also there to follow up on the case of two Manobo minors who were detained two weeks ago by the soldiers and paramilitary.
Suazo was surprised that police blocked them from the compound as the governor’s order was to prevent anyone from entering or exiting the gym.
“This became absurd when the Lumads came out to escort us, and they themselves were blocked from returning to their children in the gym, and this resulted to the scuffle,” she told davaotoday. “The children were sick and exhausted as we learned they trekked for two days and were hungry.”
She added that more police came in full battle gear, including Special Armed Forces, numbering up to 50.
Suazo said there was chaos as they wanted to talk to officials to calm down the situation, especially when the adults were contained later by the police away from the children awaiting them.
“They still have not eaten, it was like they were placed in a concentration camp,” exclaimed Suazo.
She said the only official appearing for them that time is the provincial jail warden, Josefa Bajade, who is assigned to look at the evacuees.
Suazo said she is surprised why Bajade, a jail warden, is placed in charge of the evacuees and not someone from the social welfare.
Bajade refused to be interviewed by a radio anchorman on the incident saying official statements would be given by the governor.
As of press time, leaders of the evacuees are in negotiations following the incident with the provincial crisis committee composed of Agusan del Sur Vice Governor Santiago Cane, Jr, a CHR region XIII representative and Josefina Bajade.
Suazo criticized Governor Plaza, who is reportedly out of town, for failing to address his constituents’ demands. “He hasn’t responded to these lumads who were victims of typhoon Pablo and now victims of militarization by the 26th Infantry Battallion that forced them to evacuate.”
Suazo said there are still hundreds more Manobos coming down from five barangays in Loreto as military operation continues.
The residents first evacuated last July 28 to an elementary school in Barangay Kauswagan, Loreto municipality but harassments from the military and paramilitary men, known as Bagani, prompted them to leave the area and sought refuge instead at the provincial capitol in Prosperidad town where they thought they would get help.
The tribal and community leaders wanted a negotiation with the governor, and demand relief as many are sick and exhausted from their trek. “It is appalling that this is the kind of treatment they get instead from the provincial government officials. It seems to us now that they want to hide this from the public.” (davaotoday.com)agusan, Agusanon lumads, davao city, Governor Edward Plaza, indigenous people, Karapatan, lumads, NCIP