DAVAO CITY, Philippines—A tribal leader from Misamis Oriental escaped a slay try where activist organizations accused an Army man as the suspect.
The tribal leader was identified as Roy Ibarat, a leader of Lumad organization “Pangalasag” (shield) based in Opol, Misamis Oriental.
According to Higala sa Lumad, a soldier belonging to the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion allegedly shot Ibarat twice but missed to kill him last August 20.
Higala sa Lumad Network is a support group composed of tribal and non-Lumad personalities, and those representing several interfaith organizations.
The group claimed that the soldier had already been harassing Ibarat.
On August 18, Ibarat and 50 members of his group Pangalasag sought to reclaim their ancestral domain covering 520 hectares in Barangays Bagocboc and Tingalan in Opol, Misamis Oriental.
Ibarat’s group staged an activity dubbed as “Bungkalan,” (cultivate) which was organized after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ruled in their favor against A Brown Company.
On the same day, the military and three others who also identified themselves as soldiers from the same army unit visited the residence of Ibarat in Barangay Tingalan. However, the group said only Ibarat’s wife, Sanelyn was in their house.
By Friday evening, Ibarat received a text message from the military asking to meet him and inform him of a so-called “confirmed” report about Ibarat’s involvement with the communist rebels.
The group also said that the soldier “further expressed that he wished to facilitate Ibarat’s surrender to his battalion commander and clear his name.”
On August 20, at around 3 pm, Ibarat agreed to meet the soldier in his residence. Three other men aboard two motorcycles were among those who accompanied the soldier at Ibarat’s residence.
The soldier insisted that Ibarat should surrender but he denied the accusation.
“The three other men suddenly rushed to the shed claiming they saw some individuals in black clothes hiding behind the grassy portion near the shed,” the group said. The soldier allegedly ordered Ibarat to check to confirm the sighting.
“Ibarat walked towards the grassy portion about ten meters away from the shed and found no one,” the group reported.
The group said Ibarat was asked again to return and check the area but when he turned his back, he heard shots fired twice.
Two bullets whizzed pass his head. Frightened, he ran for his life. He saw soldier and the three other men ran, boarded their motorcycles, and fled the scene.
The following day, the group said the soldier sent a text message to Ibarat to apologize for “accidentally” pulling the trigger. But Ibarat did not buy the soldier’s argument saying the two gunshots were “deliberately fired” to kill him.
Despite the incident, the soldier urged Ibarat to surrender to keep his family safe.
Ibarat’s group Pangalasag has been fighting for the right of the Higaonon of Bagocboc and Tingalan to their ancestral domain. The group said there were already two Pangalasag leaders killed.
As of press time, the military has yet to issue a statement on the incident. (davaotoday.com)