DAVAO CITY – A Manobo tribal leader in Davao Del Norte claimed that new troops sent near their village threatened both men and women and scared schoolchildren as they accused the village of harboring New People’s Army guerrillas.
Datu (chieftain) Doloman Dawsay of the Manobo community of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon (unite to defend the ancestral land) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte said the series of harrassments began on March 19 when tribal pupils were held by Army troops stationed in Sitio Nalubas, Brgy. Palma Gil, were “against their will for an hour”.
A teacher named Roilan Licayan with 13 of his students and three parents, and purok leader Tungig Mansimuy-at were heading towards Sitio Palungan to “gather chicken and root crops for the graduation day (of the children) when they met the soldiers in the road.”
“Sa dihang kalit sila gipahunong sa mga 15 ka tropa sa military ug bulag bulag nga gipang interrogate ug gipangkuhaan og hulagway ang magtutudlo, ang mga estudyante ug ang mga ginikanan ayha sila gipangbuhian. Gipang hold sila sulod sa usa ka oras. (They were stopped by 15 soldiers, separately interrogated and their pictures taken. They were held for one hour and were released),” said Dawsay in an emailed statement to the media.
“One of the soldiers inspected my bag and checked my IDs one by one. He also inspected my cellphone and read my messages,” Licayan said.
He said his group wanted to get the chicken “as this is their contribution to the graduation festivities of the school.”
Licayan is a teacher in the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugn Community Learning Center, a lumad school built with the help of the religious missionaries Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.
Licayan said the soldiers “were asking if there are NPAs (New People’s Army guerillas) in Nalubas and if I saw them.”
“I told them I do not know personally but some of the residents say they pass by but do not stay (at the community),” he said.
Licayan said that a soldier also asked “what flag are you using in your school?”
“I told him (soldier) that it’s the Philippine flag and if he does not believe me we can go to the school and I will show him,” he said.
Licayan said they were escorted by seven soldiers to Sitio Palunga.
“On our way back we were again asked to wait in the same location, this time by about 30 soldiers. They said they are still waiting for their other companions and that we wait with them. We waited again for one hour,” he said.
Licayan said the incident terrorized his school children. “They were very scared. Who wouldn’t be? They are armed and they acted as if we have information on their enemies that we are withholding,” he said.
Dawsay also said that other residents in Sitio Pangaan reported that soldiers also stomped on rice crops and cooked their chicken.
Tribal leaders of Sitio Bagang also reported that an old woman named Ubonay Botod Manlaon was allegedly taken by soldiers while she was going to Sitio Basagan, carrying rice grains.
“Usa ka semana kining gidala-dala sa mga military ug maoy gihimo nga guide sa dalan. Usa ka gabii nakadagan kini ug nakabuhi gikan sa kamot sa mga military, (She was used as a guide of the military for one week but she escaped),” said Dawsay.
Dawsay said they have asked the military to stop the abuses, including the bombing run by two military helicopters around Sitio Pangaan and Sitio Pongpong in Barangay Dagohoy, The bombings happened at about 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm yesterday.
In a text message to Davao Today, 10th ID spokesperson Capt. Ernest Carolina denied the allegations and said that they “have policies against what they accuse of”.
“The division needs to investigate the troops involved as we never condone this kind of actions.”
He also said that “(S)alugpungan should forward the complaint to the duly authorized investigative bodies for an impartial investigation to be conducted.
“We have to make sure that these complaints are genuine and not forced by a third party as with events in the past, such us that in Barangay Elizalde in Maco where some residents claimed in TV interviews that they were being forced to join rallies/petitions/complaints,” he said.
The Manobos of Talaingod established the Salugpungan in 1993 in the middle of their struggle against logging company C. Alcantara and Sons Inc (CASI, formerly Alsons).
According to their website, CASI “secured a 25-year Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) with the Department of Environment and natural Resources (DENR) to develop 20,000 hectares of its former forest concession into an industrial tree plantation-enabling CASI to facilitate forest renewal and ensure a continuous supply of wood resources.”
The Manobo’s fight was led by their chieftain Datu Guibang Apoga.
Apoga along with 25 other datus of Salugpungan declared a “pangayaw (tribal war)” against Alsons who sought an expansion of their operations deeper into the forests of the Manobo.
They were charged with murder in 1997 for the alleged murder of Alsons guards, whom they attack as a “warning” to Alsons.
Dawsay says the “reason behind the bold moves of the military now is still the same since – they want to log what remains of our forests and to mine the minerals in the mountains.” (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)