DAVAO CITY – Nobody has seen Manobo activist John Calaba since he entered the compound of a logging and mining firm in Sultan Kudarat on April 30.
The human rights group, Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos), feared the activist was killed by the company guards and members of the paramilitary group SCAA (Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary).
Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said Calaba was last seen entering the outpost of the mining guards of the company owned by the influential David M. Consunji, Inc (DMCI) in Barangay Sabanal, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat.
Calaba was the spokesman of the indigenous peoples’ organization Kisasabanay Dulangan Manobo (Kiduma), which has been vocal against the logging and mining projects of DMCI.
The group said DMCI have displaced peasants and Manobo tribes away from their farms and ancestral land.
Santos said Calaba, 28, was sitting in front of his house at Barangay Salangsang, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat “when members of the company guards invited him to eat roasted chicken”.
Prior to the incident, Santos said the guards have been known to be persistent in befriending Calaba.
Timoteo Asong, a worker at the water reservoir also owned by DMCI saw Calaba at the outpost eating. Calaba even invited Asong to eat with them, Santos said. Some 20 minutes later, Asong heard gunfire coming from the outpost. The sporadic gunfire lasted until around 10:00 am.
“When the villagers went to the outpost, the guards shouted not to get near, claiming there are enemies and the villagera might get caught in the crossfire. They were told to go home,” Santos said.
At around 10:30 am when the gunfire subsided, Santos said that one Marcial Usong, also a resident at Sitio Salabantaran, saw six company guards near the outpost carrying “something wrapped in canvas” and loading it into an elf truck. There was trail of blood.
“Residents had the impression that there was no real fire fight between the company guards and whomever they considered their enemy,” said Santos.
Santos said their efforts to get more details on the incident and to check on a report that a resident in a nearby village saw a corpse buried were “hampered by the heavy presence of military and company guards.”
“We demand from the Aquino administration to immediately surface John Calaba and hold the SCAA and Consunji accountable for Calaba’s disappearance,” Santos said.
Santos said the SCAA “are created especially for the protection of mining companies”.
The DMCI has not issued any statement on the incident.
A company affiliate, the M & S Company was earlier attacked by the New People’s Army in Barangay Hinalaan, Kalamansig, which the NPA said was “punitive action” against the company.
Efren Aksasato, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front, said NPA fighters torched five heavy equipment owned by the company including a Caterpillar backhoe and a grader, two Volvo dump truck units and a logging truck during the attack on March 7.
Aksasato said residents in the area “have persistently demanded to hold accountable and punish the company for numerous atrocities [including] land grabbing and grave violations of the Dulangan-Manobo ancestral land, mass slaughter of 100 Dulangan tribesmen, and murder of peasant settlers.” (davaotoday.com)