DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Various indigenous people’s groups denounced what it called a “military instigated” assembly where ailing fugitive Manobo chieftain Datu Guibang Apoga appeared in Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod town, Davao del Norte on June 9.
Datu Kaylo Bontulan, a Lumad leader of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon said contrary to military’s claims, Datu Guibang addressed the assembly of some 150 Lumads, mostly children, by speaking to them of his “desire for the Lumad schools to continue serving the people.”
“He never mentioned of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of the Manobo tribe,” Bontulan said in a statement, which was also signed by 17 other datus who are members of the Salugpongan council.
The Eastern Mindanao Command said in a press statement that in the tribal peace covenant where military and local municipal officials were present, Datu Guibang “made peace” with the military and the government.
The military said that Datu Guibang Apoga turned over his rifle to BGen. Ernesto Torres Jr., Commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Edwin M. Paredes, Battalion Commander of 56th Infantry Battalion.
“We welcome the return of Datu Gibang. His tribe has long been waiting for his return. With this peace covenant and with his leadership, we hope to achieve a lasting peace in the area of the Langilan-Manobo Tribe, and together we can work for further development”, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command said.
But Salugpongan datus said the report was false.
Bontulan said “(T)he government failed to show Datu Guibang as its latest puppet trophy and sway to its rotten fold the Salugpungan people.”
He said for the past few months, the military authorities have been “desperate” in their attempts to silence our ranks citing the “overwhelming” military deployment, the campaign to close Lumad schools and for “harassing” Datu Guibang to surrender.
Salugpongan said they have “survived and prevailed over the abject neglect and discrimination by struggling and fortifying our ranks.”
“We have prevailed over the various grave injustices and prejudice by carrying on our fight not just within our ancestral territories, but in the streets, church sanctuaries and state universities where we found great support. We have made sure that our children are cured of illiteracy and ignorance by getting the education necessary in the sustenance of our tribe and the coming generations.”
“Our struggle will continue and will never end in Datu Guibang. There will be more Datu Guibang who chose to fight as the Lumad people have seen the landgrabbing and plunder of our lands, forced displacement due to the continuous counter-insurgency campaigns of the military authorities in our areas,” Bontulan said.
Moreover, the Lumad women’s group Sabokahan condemned the military siege of Talaingod.
Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, Sabokahan founder and one of the datus (chieftain) of Talaingod said that the military tried but failed to force Datu Guibang Apoga to surrender.
The Lumad woman leader also called on the Salugpongan people to unite amidst the state sponsored attacks that are meant to divide and cripple our resistance.
“Many more leaders from among our people will rise to continue Salupongan’s legacy of resistance,” Bigkay said.
“We have to defend everything we have fought over the years most especially Salugpongan, our organization, which unites our people; our culture of resistance and expression of self-determined governance expressed in our Lumad schools which empowers and emancipates our children,” Bigkay added. (davaotoday.com)