Mark Anthony Duran and Justin Gamulo, Davao Today Interns
DAVAO CITY – More than 300 tribal members of different tribal communities in Mindanao gathered here on Tuesday to call the attention of government to scrap the military’s Oplan Bayanihan which they claim as “causing havoc in the hinterlands.”
The groups said more than 1,000 families, or approximately 5,000 individuals, have already evacuated as the Army mounted recently successive military operations to combat the New Peoples Army and other rebels.
Groups coming from Kapalong, Talaingod, Caraga, Bukidnon, Surigao Del Sur and Agusan Del Sur fled to Davao City in their plight to inform the public of their grievances.
Datu Doloman Dausay of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon (STTI) from Talaingod made it clear however, that their act to evade military operations in their area was “not a sign of cowardice but an open demonstration to fight for their constitutional rights.”
“The incessant military ops (military operations) in our homeland is a big violation of our constitutional rights,” Doloman said.
“In our evacuation, we did not fear the roaring guns and the continued oppression of government forces. We are here to demonstrate our resolve to express our grievances especially to the military officials in Camp Panacan who command the entire army in Southern Mindanao,” he added.
Since the firefight began, there were consecutive evacuations that happened in the entire Mindanao Region.
In April 2014, about 1,300 Manuvu from Talaingod, Davao Del Norte arrived in Davao City to seek refuge from “militarization” of their communities.
The fighting also affected 22 sitios, 27 families, and 234 individuals including women and children in Bukidnon.
From March 21 to December 2014, 962 families and 4,176 individuals from Caraga Region were forced to evacuate their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire between the government and NPA guerillas.
The incessant fighting resulted in a mass exodus called “Bakwit Mindanao” where they fled to Davao City and lived in clusters at makeshift houses and tents at UCCP Haran Compound.
The tribes also expressed concern over the abuses done by fellow tribesmen who were forcibly recruited into the paramilitary in order to fight the NPA guerrillas. They said these tribal paramilitary “created more harm than safety.”
Bai Eufemia Cullamat of Mapaso, Surigao Del Sur has condemned the paramilitary groups “for terrorizing citizens and stealing goods” from their community.
According to Cullamat, the male members of a tribe were under pressure to join “because refusal to do so would mean that they are members of the NPA.”
“These Bagani, Alamara and other paramilitary troops who constantly ravage our community are once our tribesmen who were recruited by the AFP out of fear of being killed or accused of being NPAs and some had also willingly strayed to fight for the military,” Cullamat said.
“Military troops are constantly denying that they have no association with any paramilitary groups but we do not believe them because the special force and rangers would often accompany them,” she added.
Several datus and leaders from their community who stood firm in defying the plans of the military troops and mining companies were also killed, the group said.
From 2014 to 2015, nine cases of extrajudicial killings were recorded. Among those who were killed were Datu Rolando Ambongan, Ricardo Tuazon, Sr., Rusin Sarrento-Legaspi, Armando Campos, Datu Roger Alaki, Henry Alameda, Aldren Dumagit, Philjohn Poloyapoy, Barangay Captain Necasio Precioso, and Jose Alimboyong.
Bai Josephine Pagalan of Kasalo Caraga said the killing was “a form of injustice” and accused the military of backing the mining activities in the region.
“Caraga Region is under attack because it is the mining capital in the country and we are not going to let other mining companies steal our lands and its wealth,” Pagalan said.
“I hope that the national government would intervene especially the government to stop these illegal activities,” she added.
The tribal members would stay in Davao City until their plight would be heard by the government.
The tribal evacuees were here since last week in celebration of the first Sabokahan To Mo Lumad Kamalitanan Confederation of Lumad Women.
In Butuan City, 350 indigenous peoples and farmers from Agusan del Sur are also staging a camp-out protest in Butuan City Sports Complex in Libertad Thursday to call for the pull out of the military in their communities. (davaotoday.com)