By Amal-Ryan B. Rinabor
Davao Today Intern
DAVAO CITY—Manobo evacuees remained tough in a dialogue with a town official here, saying only a military troop pull-out can make them pack up and go home.
As the dialogue was taking place, other Manobo evacuees and support groups trooped to the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters in Panacan to demand the pullout of the 60th Infantry Battalion, 68th IB and the 4th Special Forces.
At their temporary shelter at the protestant UCCP Haran compound, evacuees belonging to Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon met with Zandro Tocmo, Talaingod town administrator, who relayed to them Talaingod Mayor Basilio Libayao’s order for them to go home.
“Ang gusto gyud ni mayor unta kung pwede mubalik ang mga Lumad og mga evacuees didto sa Brgy.Palma Gil, didto sa safe area nato, dayun i-assure ni mayor ang pagkaon og tanan makaya ihatag sa gobyerno. (The mayor wants the Lumad evacuees to return to Barangay Palma Gil, in a safe place. The Mayor also assures that there would be food and other relief goods to be provided for them),” Tocmo told the leaders.
However, Salugpongan leaders led by spokesperson Datu Doloman Dawsay said they wanted the mayor to call for the pull out of soldiers before they can return.
“Dugay na ang istorya na ingun ana. Ang mga sundalo unahon pag pa pull out, manguli man ang mga tao didto (They had been saying the same thing like that before. The soldiers have to pull out first, then the people will go back),” said Dawsay.
The group also refused the sacks of rice which Tocmo brought for them. Dawsay said that what they wanted from the mayor is not merely relief goods but for him to end militarisation in their area.
“Ang importante ang safety sa kinabuhi sa mga tao, bisan unsa nga oras pa basta wala na ang mga sundalo didto manguli na. Kinahanglan atimanon ni mayor, dili niya pasagdan ang mga tao (The important thing is safety of the people, we can return any time as long as there are no longer soldiers. The mayor should take care of that, he should not neglect the people),” Dawsay added.
Another Salugpongan leader Datu Gumbil said Libayao should support the Manobos who voted for him to win in the last elections.
“Nagapasalamat si mayor kay panahon eleksyon gisuportahan nila, dapat karon kung usa ang problema ipaabot sa iyang katawhan tabangan niya, suportahan niya, pero wala na nahitabo (The mayor is thankful he gets support during elections, and if his constituents bring up problems he should support them, but this has not happened),” said Gumbil.
A male evacuee told Tocmo that they would return to their community if the soldiers would pull-out.
“Daghan na nga istorya ang nigawas pero ang tinuod, ipa pull out lang ang mga sundalo ang amo ge panagayo kang Mayor, kay kung dili gani kaya ni Mayor ipa pull out ang mga sundalo ang rason diha dili pud niya kaya mag cover sa amo (There have been so much talks about this, but all we asked from the mayor is to pull-out the soldiers, and if the mayor can’t do that, then he would not be able to protect us),” the evacuee said.
Tocmo said he will bring the leaders’ demands to Mayor Libayao.
But when Davao Today asked Tocmo if Mayor Libayao intends to visit the lumads soon and also talk to military officials on their demand for their pullout, Tocmo said he had no idea what Libayao’s plan is.
Military officials have earlier said they refuse to withdraw its troops from its counter-insurgency operations in the Manobo communities in Talaingod town.
The New People’s Army Southern Mindanao, for its part, scored the military for “punishing” the Lumads with its “atrocious” operations in Talaingod. In a statement sent to media outlets, Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA spokesperson said, “(T)he AFP’s mission in Talaingod—their unspoken objective– is to punish Lumad Manobos for having practiced their right to self-determination by prevailing over stage neglect and national oppression.”
Sanchez noted that “(T)he Lumads were in the process of building their own self-sufficient economy, a thing which the state finds abominable, hence the bombing and other abuses.” (davaotoday.com)