DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Lumad organizations and their advocates are calling for the immediate release of the seven Lumad who were arrested in a raid in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental and are facing what they claim as trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Refuting police report that the detained Lumad are New People’s Army (NPA), the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization in Northern Mindanao said the “Balingasag 7” are staunch defenders of their ancestral lands.
Arrested were Pilutong Langka, Pablita Hilogon, Reynaldo Ayuma, Dandi Hilogon, Bambi Hilogon, Padod Ayuma, and Glenn Hilogon.
Kalumbay said in their statement that authorities that conducted the raid allegedly planted firearms in the houses of the Lumad to justify the arrest. Similar “dirty tactics” were used to arrest members of other leaders and members of Lumad and peasant organizations in the region, the group added.
Kabataan Party-list Northern Mindanao also belied the authorities’ claim, saying they had met these Lumad who staged a campout at the Provincial Capitol grounds in Misamis Oriental from 2018 to 2019 because of militarization that displaced them from their village. The group witnessed how the Lumad were “disregarded” by the local government on their appeal to pullout the military troops from their communities.
The Balingasag 7 are charged with violating Republic Act 10591 for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and others with violation of Republic Act 9516 for illegal possession of explosives, said Lt. Noel Oclarit, deputy team leader of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-10 in Misamis Oriental.
The seven are transferred to the provincial jail and will face the complaint raised to the local court, Clarit added.
Oclarit claimed an intelligence report alleged that Langka is an NPA fighter known as “Ka Rex.”
More attacks with Anti-terror bill
Sandugo, a national alliance of Moro and Indigenous People, denounced the arrest of Balingasag 7 and said this could worsen if the Anti-Terrorism Bill becomes a law.
“Even without the bill, our constitutional rights to freedom of speech, information, and dissent have repeatedly been violated by government forces with impunity. We are certain that the Anti-Terror Bill will only further embolden such abuses of power,” the group said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, a Manobo Lumad, also noted that there have been a series of abuse and arrest against members of progressive groups in the country amid the looming threat of ATB, heavily criticized due to its “unconstitutional” provisions.
“Pag naisabatas ang Terror Bill, lalo pang lalala ang pandarahas ng estado sa mga Lumad, magsasaka, LGBTQ+, at iba pang progresibong grupo. Itigil ang pagyurak sa karapatan naming mga katutubo (If the Terror Bill becomes a law, it will worsen the attacks of the state on the Lumad, farmers, LGBTQ+ and other progressive groups. Stop trampling the rights of the indigenous people),” Cullamat said.
President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill early this June by certifying it as an urgent legislation, despite criticisms from the opposition and legal experts and professors on its provisions. The bill will lapse into law on July 9 unless the president vetoes it.
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) demand an independent investigation on the arrest to deliver “justice and accountability”, as they expressed strong concern to this “new wave of State-sponsored crimes to the people.” — With reports from Ken Cagula and Jigger Jerusalem (davaotoday.com)