DAVAO CITY – New People’s Army guerrillas in Bukidnon owned up to last Wednesday’s killing of Impasugong Mayor Mario Okinlay.
In their statement released last Saturday, the NPA North Central Mindanao Region (NPA-NCMR) said Okinlay acted as a “land grabber” and ruled as a “local tyrant” against indigenous Higanon farmers.
NPA-NCMR spokesperson Allan Juanito said the mayor ignored their warnings in the past to stop these activities. The mayor has been going around with armed escorts, and allowed military battalions to camp in Impasugong communities.
Juanito gave some accounts of Okinlay’s land grabbing reportedly for oil palm plantation.
“He has grabbed lands from no less than 50 people, promised them compensation then left the poor landowners waiting for years as they watched their lands in Impasug-ong converted to oil palm plantations,” he said.
The NPA said Okinlay’s collaboration with the battalions made lives insufferable by making Impasugong a base of operations for the Philippine Army’s 8th and 60th battalion..
“He has given the reactionary troops of 8th IB full backing to live among civilians, occupy public buildings in a number of barrios, putting up checkpoints wherever and whenever they see fit.
In some barrios,they starve the civilian population by unjustly regulating rice procurement to five kilos per family per week, and violate their freedom of movement and means of sustenance by unreasonably imposing the farmers’ work schedule from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM daily,” Juanito said.
Juanito said the mayor also joined the military’s “peace and development” campaigns in the town and openly challenged the NPA.
Okinlay was hit by a sniper attack by the NPA during their ambush on July 5 in Barangay Bontongon.
Military officials said the mayor was on the way to a relief and medical mission.
The NPA said Okinlay was riding in a convoy of three vehicles and 20 motorcycles with 50 military troops and six police officers that also carried 8th Infantry Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Landingin and Impasugong Police chief Pinohan.
Juanito warned that the “8th IB will surely vent their ire on innocent civilians.”
“Okinlay’s death is grieved by the oppressors and exploiters like him. On the other hand, for his many poor victims, justice has finally been served,” he added.
Meanwhile, Davao Today interviewed a Higaonon leader, Jomorito Goaynon from the indigenous alliance Kalumbay, who confirmed that the mayor duped Higaonons in Barangay Kalangao in 2003 to give some 2,000 hectares of ancestral land to the A. Brown oil palm plantation.
“The mayor promised to the Higaonons they would be paid P40,000 per hectare in royalties, but were only got P1,000 per hectare as advance payment. When the tribe asked him where are the rest of the money, he just brushed them off saying the oil palm is for their development anyway,” Goaynon said.
He added that indigenous farmers who worked at the palm oil were retrenched after three years.
Goaynon said that Okinlay facilitated a Japanese mining company drilling chromite minerals in Mount Abaga, and claimed this was a people’s mining site.
He believes these were reasons that he was felled by the NPA.
“Okinlay has already been warned before. But he did not heed them,” he said.
He said Okinlay was known to rule with an iron fist, at times mauling opposition candidates or voters who wanted a change in leadership in Impasugong.
“If a barangay or town official challenges him, he would lose in the next election,” Goaynon said.
Goaynon, who is a nephew of Okinlay, was even threatened by his uncle in 2007 for helping the Higaonons to act against the plantation.
“He told me ‘why are you organizing them when there is a (National Commission for Indigenous Peoples) organization?’ When I insisted, he threatened me I might face arrest or something worse,” he said.
Goaynon said the mayor once enjoyed the support of Impasugong residents who voted for him in the 1980s. “They thought he would help his fellow Higaonons, but that was not the case.” (davaotoday.com)