Across Mindanao, Lumad vs. Lumad as firms gobble up land

Sep. 03, 2007

DAVAO CITY, Philippines - An increasing number of human-rights violations in Mindanao are being committed by members or leaders of Lumad tribes (indigenous peoples), victimizing not just ordinary civilians but also their own people, a tribal group said Sunday.

IPHR Watch Mindanao, a nongovernment group, said it has documented in the first half of the year five cases of forced evacuation and grave threat and harassment that affected 144 families; two cases of massacre; and five cases of violation to domicile, illegal search and seizure, divestment of property and military encampment inside Lumad communities.

Known Lumad leaders supported by the military were allegedly behind these abuses. An increasing number of human rights violations are being perpetrated by known indigenous leaders who have been recruited by the military into the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), or as leaders of other state-supported paramilitary groups whose members are Lumads, said Dulphing Ogan, secretary-general of Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran).

Kalumaran condemned what it called as a pattern of heavy militarization in areas being eyed for large-scale mining, logging, and energy projects. It also criticized the increasing number of state-sponsored paramilitary groups recruited from Lumad communities.

Although the strategy of using Lumads against Lumads, which is a classic divide-and-rule tactic, is not new in Mindanao, the group feared that this atrocities would increase as the entry of foreign multinational firms into Lumad territories become even more widespread due to the governments promotion of mining and energy projects.

According to Kalumaran, on Jan. 21, troops from the Bungkatol Liberation Front (BULIF), which is said to be supported by the military, indiscriminately fired at the houses of Somo Singa, Botsoy Sigahan and Saya Tibhongan in Km. 26, barangay Lawan-lawan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte. Singa was killed on the spot, while Rosing Manguanta, who was two months pregnany, was wounded. Because of the incident, residents immediately evacuated; today, more than 100 families have left their homes.

BULIF is led by Datu Ronald Manhumosay, who is also the head of the Kalihukang Nagkahiusang Minorya (KNM), and the claimant of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) for the Higaonon. Families who have not signed on to Manhumosays CADT claim have become targets of harassment, Kalumaran said.

In Agusan del Sur, the CAFGU unit under the leadership of Datu Mario Napongahan has been terrorizing Banwaon communities in San Luis who refuse to acknowledge Napongahans application for a CADT. Residents from sitio Minlinao have been forced to evacuate because of his alleged harassment, while the communities of Tabon-tabon, Nakadayas, and Kimambukagyang are under constant threat. Classes in three schools have been suspended due to harassment of Napongahan and his group.

According to a statement given by Datu Manpadayag, a tribal leader of the Banwaon tribe, young Lumads are being coered to join the CAFGU. This, he said, will result in more attacks on Lumad communities that the military suspects as being sympathetic to the New Peoples Army. This, in turn, would aggravate human rights violations while endangering the lives of the Lumads.

On April 10, 2007, Noel Napongahan, also a member of CAFGU under Datu Napungahan, was seen throwing a grenade at the house of Marcelito Precioso, the barangay captain of Balit, in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur. Fortunately no one was injured in the incident. The Banwaon tribe has filed charges against the accused, but the subpoena has yet to be executed.

BULIF, the group of Datu Mario Napongahan, the Alamara, Bagani Force and others have long been terrorizing Lumad communities, Ogan said. Indigenous leaders of these paramilitary groups are often those working with large-scale mining and logging interests to squash resistance from local communities to such development projects. We receive more and more reports of these harassments and killings.

Napongahan and Manhumosays cases reached the United Nations through the visits of the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Rudolfo Stavenhagen in 2002 and 2007.

Kalumaran condemned the recruitment of indigenous people into paramilitary groups by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, saying that such manipulation of indigenous people is dividing communities and generating massive human rights violations.

Kalumaran is an alliance of Lumad organizations across Mindanao. It currently has 46 member organizations. (

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