ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Moro and Lumad leaders in Mindanao decried the all-out war campaign of the Duterte administration, especially as it is targeting their communities.
The leaders also expressed fear, saying that the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao will further intensify and escalate the military operations in far-flung areas where most of the Moro and Lumad communities are settled.
“For us, we define and associate the martial law with aerial bombing,” said Jerome Succor Aba, the national chair of Suara Bangsamoro.
Aba provided the briefing and initial analysis on the situation in Marawi during the orientation of the more or less 700 volunteers who joined a three-day National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission.
The orientation was held at the mini-theatre of the MSU-IIT here on Wednesday, June 14.
“President Duterte declared martial law last May 23 that covered the whole of Mindanao. By May 24, mortar shelling started to hit civilian communities in Marawi,” Aba said.
Aba pointed out that it was the massive bombings and air strikes that forced the populace of Marawi to evacuate.
More than 40,000 families or 200,000 individuals have left Marawi and are now staying in evacuation centers and in nearby towns, cities, and provinces.
Suara Bangsamoro issued a statement on May 24, one day after the declaration of martial, saying the measure will only heighten the peace instability in Marawi.
The group’s apprehension and concerns are proven true as the airstrikes and ground military operations in Marawi are now running for three weeks.
“Our utmost concern is the lives and livelihoods of the civilians if the Duterte administration should choose to pursue with urban militarization and aerial bombings. A war in this context is unnecessary and solves nothing,” Suara Bangsamoro said.
Aba also presented the bombings in villages in five towns in Maguindanao province last June 3 that forced hundreds of Moro families to evacuate.
More than 200 Moro were arrested in Davao City when martial law was declared. Most of those taken by the police failed to present any identification cards.
“Moro residents who cannot present any ID are automatically suspected as Maute members or terrorists,” he noted.
Maute and US
In a larger scale, Aba said people must comprehend who are the Maute members and their connections to the Abu Sayyaf.
He said most of the Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Isnilon Hapilon were recruits of the US during the war in Afghanistan.
“It’s the US who benefits from these wars. The same country is also benefiting from the Marawi siege and the declaration of martial law,” he added.
The US, he added, will ensure that its political interests in the country, including its big businesses, are protected.
Aba also mentioned of the presence of US forces in Mindanao – the first was during the Mamasapano incident in 2015 and now in Marawi siege.
The infamous “Mamasapano incident” took place last January 25, 2015, in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.
Forty-four members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police were killed during the incident. Seven Moro civilians were also killed and three others were wounded. An American soldier, according to some accounts, was also killed during the operation.
“Hindi pa napapanagot sa mga kasalanan itong mga sundalong Amerikano sa mga ginawa nila sa atin, historically, until the present time (The American forces have not paid for their offenses to us, historically, until the present time),” he said.
Lumads are ML victims too
“Ang martial law maoy gihimo na nga rason sa military aron maatake nila ang mga komunidad sa mga lumad, mga eskwelahan ug sa mga lider (Martial law justified the attacks of the military against our communities, schools, and leaders).”
This was the statement of Dulphing Ogan, chair of lumad organization Kalumaran when interviewed by davaotoday.com here.
Ogan and other lumad leaders also joined the three-day interfaith humanitarian mission for the victims of Marawi siege.
“We are here to extend the sympathy of the indigenous people in Mindanao to our Moro brothers and sisters, including the Christians who were displaced by this continuing war in Marawi,” he added.
Ogan also expressed fear of massive military operations and bombardments in Lumad communities because of the declaration of martial law.
“Nahitabo na pud ang mga dagkung operasyon sa military kauban ang mga aerial bombing ngadto sa mga komunidad sa mga lumad (Massive military operations and bombardments already took place in Lumad communities),” he said.
Ogan was referring to the military operations and aerial attacks on May 25 in the provinces of North Cotabato and Bukidnon.
Human rights group Karapatan reported of the series of aerial attacks staged by the military in sitios Pedtobawan, Campo, Apulan, and Centro Salat in Barangay Salat and in sitio Libpas in Tuael, all part of President Roxas town in North Cotabato province.
The aerial attacks killed one civilian and the wounding of two others.
Ogan said most of the victims during the bombardments in Salat and Lebpas were Moro residents but Lumad residents in nearby villages also feared for their lives and forced to evacuate.
Karapatan reported of the strafing of the homes of residents in Tuael and the nearby villages of Tangkalan and Anggaan in Damulog, Bukidnon.
The perpetrators are elements of the 39th Infantry Batallion, according to the human rights group.
On the same date, Karapatan recorded of the detention and harassments of around 30 Lumad, Moro and Christian women at the checkpoint of the 6th Marine Landing Battalion in Domulon, in Sultan Kudarat.
For one-and-a-half hours, the victims were allegedly detained, interrogated and asked to produce identification cards.
“Kining gideklarang martial law naka apekto na sa katawhang Lumad diri sa Mindanao. Ang panghitabo sa Marawi gihimo lamang nga justification aron madeklara ang martial law (This martial law already affected the lumad communities in Mindanao. The incident in Marawi was used as a justification for its declaration),” he added.
Ogan also criticized the continued killing of lumad leaders.
On May 26, Datu Daniel Lasid, a member of B’laan council in Matanao, Davao del Sur was gunned down by men riding on a motorcycle. He sustained 11 gunshot wounds.
His companion identified as Lindo Samling, also of B’laan tribe was wounded during the attack.
Witnesses interviewed by Karapatan said they suspect the gunmen as soldiers belonging to 73rd Infantry Battalion.
“Si Lasid maoy usa sa mga lider sa tribung B’laan nga padayong nagsupak sa operasyon sa Xstrata (Lasid was among the B’laan leaders who continue to oppose the operations of Xstrata),” Ogan said.
Xstrata is a large-scale copper-gold mining project that covers parts of South Cotabato and Davao del Sur.
In Davao Oriental, a lumad activist identified as Ana Marie Digaynon Aumada was also shot to death in her house in Lucod, Baganga town.
Aumada was a member of the peasant group Alyansa sa mga Mag-uuma sa Sidlakang Davao or Almasid.
“Padayon ang pagpamatay sa mga lider sa lumad ilabi na katong hugot nga mibatok sa mga dagkong proyekto nga makadaut sa kinaiyahan ug katawhan sama sa mga dagkung pagmina (Killings of lumad leaders continue especially those known to be against big projects that are detrimental to the people and the environment such as the large-scale mining),” Ogan said. (davaotoday.com)