CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Thousands of individuals belonging to various militant groups in Northern Mindanao were held in police and military checkpoints along the national highway going to Iligan City to attend a protest action there in time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the National Address (Sona) Monday afternoon.
About 3,000 of protesters from this city, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental were on 38 board trucks and vans when they were stopped at checkpoints in Barangay Bulua here, in Opol, and El Salvador City.
The delegates were from the progressive groups Bayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, League of Filipino Students, Kalumbay, Kadamay, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, church workers, among others.
It was at a checkpoint in Opol when they were held for more than an hour, said Wildon Barros, regional secretary-general of the labor group Kilusang Mayong Uno (KMU).
“We had our photos taken, they listed our names and our vehicles were individually checked. They (police officers manning the checkpoint) were courteous but we were curious why we were the only ones being held for so long,” Barros said.
He said: “It was intended so we could not join the protest rally in Iligan.” He added they were supposed to meet with some of the evacuees at the city plaza in that city.
Barros also reported that prior to the scheduled Sona, police officers allegedly ordered to remove the sound system and placards their companions had set up at the plaza.
Datu Jomorito Goaynon, leader of the indigenous people’s group Kalumbay, said the way that they were profiled by law enforcers and state agents smack of the real face of martial law.
“We have the right to travel and to peaceably assemble,” he said.
Goaynon added they are expecting that Duterte would make good on his promise to dismantle the paramilitary groups and to end the displacement of tribal peoples.
“He (Duterte) did nothing for us Lumads. His promises for us remained unfulfilled. In his first year in office we did not see any accomplishments that concern us,” he said, adding that under the new administration there were already eight members of the tribal communities who were killed and the forced evacuation of the Lumads from their homes.
Goaynon said, he and other tribal leaders from Mindanao went to Malacañan and submitted to Duterte the indigenous people’s agenda last June 30, 2016, but so far none of its provisions has been fulfilled.
The delegation was also delayed due to the traffic congestion in El Salvador, about 75 kilometers away or an hour and 48-minute drive from Iligan.
Barros said their convoy of vehicles slowed down at about 11 a.m. As this was article was written, they were still stuck in El Salvador, at about 4:40 p.m., a few minutes after Duterte delivered his Sona.
Senior Superintendent Leony Roy Ga, the Iligan city police director, said Iligan was peaceful as more law enforcers were deployed to ensure that no untoward incident will occur in the area.
Ga said about 2,000 people had massed at the city plaza in Iligan in support of the President and the extension of martial law, but he was not aware of an anti-Duterte rally.
He said the guidance from the police regional director, Chief Superintendent Timoteo Pacleb, was to secure the rally attendees whether they are for or against Duterte. (davaotoday.com)