By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY (davaotoday.com)– The image of a soldier shooting a villager clambering upon the back of an open truck is still fresh in the minds of the Manobos when they left their homes in Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in July this year.
Though it happened four years ago, the lumads have not forgotten Jessie Bacasmas, a farmer shot on May 12, 2005 as they (the lumads) were about to leave the village upon the arrival of soldiers.
Like the Moro peoples in many parts of Mindanao, evacuation has almost become a way of life for the lumads . They would rather sleep in schools, at village halls, or town gymnasiums than stay in the villages and bear the brunt of military operations.
Troops belonging to the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army stop evacuees 10 times, so that what used to be a two-hour trip to the evacuation camp in Tandag, Surigao del Sur, stretched to ten hours. (contributed photo)
Memories of past abuses have sent them fleeing their villages at the mention of the coming troops.
As the 2010 deadline of the Philippine military to end Asia�s longest running communist insurgency nears, the evacuation of lumads intensifies.
They take place in Arakan town in North Cotabato and in Matanao, Davao del Sur, according to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor (IPRM) report in Mindanao. The Ata-Manobos in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and the Mandayas in Baganga, Davao Oriental also face threats of displacement, the IP rights watchdog said.
An estimated 400 lumads from the villages of Sto. Ni�o, Tumanding, Mari Caridad, Kinawayan, Kabantian, Duruluman, and Malibatuan in Arakan town left their homes when 57th IB soldiers arrived in their villages in August. The lumads took refuge at the Arakan gym, the IPRM reported.
Leaving Diatagon. Father and daughter carry their prized possessions. (contributed photo)
In Matanao, Davao del Sur, 500 people fled their homes in the first week of August as troops of the 39th IB entered the B’laan communities of Datal Fetak, Purok 1 and Purok 2, Gopkalahan, Bantong, Datal �ta and Sultana, all part of the villages of Dungan Fekong and Colonsabac.
Since mid-August, Ata-Manobos in Talaingod town of Davao del Norte have been restless after soldiers belonging tothe 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army arrived in their communities, particularly in Sitio Dulyan and Sitio Nasilaban in Barangay Palma Gil.
Fear has also gripped the Mandaya communities in Baganga town in Davao Oriental as troops of the 67th Infantry Battalion have been staying in the villages since July.
The stories of the lumads are almost the same.
The Manobos in Lianga said the military treated them as �enemies.�
According to villagers interviewed by Davao Today, the soldiers who came to Diatagon set up checkpoints near their houses as soon as they arrived. The soldiers also prohibited every villager from bringing more than three kilograms of rice from town to their communities.
�The soldiers suspect that we are feeding the rebels,� Genasque Enriquez, a Manobo from Kilometer 9 Emerald of Barangay Diatagon told a press conference in Davao City.