Davao City – Ten years ago, three persons were killed and five were wounded in a massacre inside a Manobo community in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.
The community pointed to the paramilitary group Alamara as the perpetrators, with the victims ensuring that it was noted in the police blotter.
Ten years later, the case looks like it has been forgotten and those responsible are now being hailed as heroes.
“In 2004, Dao Mamat-aw, Letty Mamat-aw and Rosalina Tomambad were killed while Linda Sampag, Joanito Tiwog, Kolas Mamat-aw, Baranggaw Sumpo and Dikay Tiwog were wounded in an massacre in Barangay Gupitan (Kapalong, Davao del Norte),” said Datu Mintroso Malibato in an interview with Davao Today.
“The community sought the help of the police and it was blottered but nothing came out of it till now. No one from the government helped us get justice,” said Malibato.
Malibato said the men who were responsible “are members of the Alamara under the leadership of Larris Masaloon.” The Alamara is a known paramilitary organization among tribesmen.
Masaloon appeared in a television interview recently to declare a pangayaw (tribal warfare) againt New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who allegedly “want to drive us out from our lands.”
On August 29, a national interfaith fact-finding mission to Sitio Kapatagan was called off after its vehicles sustained punctured tires and as residents warn mission members that armed Alamara members were lying in ambush.
Masaloon later appeared in another televised interview to warn non-governmental organizations that they were also banned from entering their area.
Lito Sampag, spokesperson of the local IP group Karadyawan said his mother Linda “never recovered from the massacre and is now disabled”. “Ironically Larris is now being portrayed in television as the defender of our rights.”
“Larris is nothing but a leader of criminals responsible for theft and cattle-rustling,” he said.
“This is how they took advantage of our poverty. They turned Lumads into Cafgus (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) and pitted them against their kin,” said Sampag.
Lito said one of the military officers identified with the Alamara “was even baptised as a datu despite the attrocities he has done and now the new soldiers are hailed as bringers of peace and development while human rights violations are being committed against us.”
Awrit Tumagsa, purok leader of Sitio Luno-Luno, also in Barangay Gupitan, said he “was almost hacked by Alamara members barricading Sitio Patil.”
“They do not want people to get out. They told me that if I go to [human right group] Karapatan, they will lose as majority will now favor Karapatan,” he said.
Tumagsa said the Alamara did not harm him as he was a known purok leader.
Tumagsa said he arrived to Davao City last Friday to seek the help of Karapatan and other NGOs.
“Soldiers have encamped in 10 sitios of Barangay Gupitan and have even followed our women around when they farm, which is against our customs,” he said.
Tumagsa said soldiers have already been digging foxholes in the villages and have divided the community into two. “They made residents stay in the lower part of Sitio Kapatagan while they stayed in the higher portion,” said Tumagsa.
Tumagsa said soldiers from two battalions established encampments in Sitios Patel, Tagasan, Taongatok, Kapatagan, Ngan, Aninipot, Mangkay, Mansalinao, Mambago, Luno-luno, Banwalay, Lumban and Maguimom in Barangay Gupitan.
These are the same areas identified as being controlled by a logging syndicate identified as the Big 4, according to the New People’s Army.
Kapalong Mayor Eduardo Timbol admitted to Davao Today the existence of the Big 4 and said they have issued an order declaring Barangay Gupitan as a critical watershed jointly supervised by the environment department.
But, in a stament last week, the NPA called Timbol as a “warlord” who used the notorious tribal leader Larris Mansaloon and the Alamara, as his own private army that is responsible for protecting his various economic and political interests.”
“Mansaloon and the Alamara bandits were the armed component of Mayor Timbol’s electoral machinery and illegal logging business,” said Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the the NPA’s Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Subregional Command in an emailed statement.
For Karadyawan, they still hope that Masaloon “would soon wake up.”
Lt. Col. Lwelyn Binasoy, commander of the 10th Civil Military Operations Battalion of the Philippine Army defended Timbol in an interview.
“What the mayor is doing is for the good of the people of Kapalong, nothing else [and that] it is not correct to accuse him of abetting violence in the area,” Binasoy said.
Binasoy said he kwew the mayor as he was the former battalion commander of the 60th Infantry Battalion assigned in the area.
He also defended the presence of military troops in the areas mentioned saying that “the military are there because of the presence of the New People’s Army.”
“We do not want that we are the only one who will take part in the solution of insurgency. We want stakeholders to join us in finding peace that we want to achieve,” said Binasoy.
In a press conference Tuesday, Karadyawan offered a white-feathered chicken (ogis nga manok) in a panubad-tubad (ritual) for peace and for “protection on their struggle against foreign corporations interested in exploiting their lands.”
Lito also said that they formally asked Davao City Mayor and Davao Region Peace and Order Council (Rpoc) Chair Rodrigo Duterte to help them and intervene in the current situation in Kapalong. (davaotoday.com)