Military operations displace Ata Manobo families

Apr. 21, 2008

Talaingod, Davao del Norte Ablino Olod, 45, had a hard time getting out of his house for days in January this year, unable to look for food in his farm to feed his family. Military soldiers were conducting operations in their community and he feared that if he goes out to his farm, soldiers might suspect him as member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

TUCKED-IN. Using a piece of cloth slung to their bodies, lumad women swaddle their young ones, tucking them close to their bodies as they walk. Ata-Manobo women and children are among those displaced by the relentless military operations in Talaingod. ( photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Two days later, his family joined 33 other families in sitio Laslasakan who left to flee to the forest. At 4 p.m. that day, one of his six children, the five-month-old boy named Maraligoy, died after starving for days.

“Because we could not look for food, my child became very weak and eventually died,” said Olod. He said they already started feeding the child with solid foods like cassava and sweet potato, which abound in their farms. Unfortunately, they could not get these foods at that time because of relentless military operations.

In the adjacent sitio (subvillage) of Damagan, a tribal leader also lost his 60-year-old father while they were fleeing to the forest to hide.

Datu Sumpa Tausan lost his father, Manonggol Tausan, while fleeing their home to the forest. His brother was carrying the old man on his back when they slipped on the sloping ground and fell. The old man died when they entered a neighboring sitio.

Both these Ata Manobo families blamed the relentless operations in their area for the death of their loved ones.

WISHFUL THINKING. Ata- Manobos displaced by intense military operations in Talaingod long to return home. ( photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Military operation stepped up in the hinterlands of Talaingod in Davao del Norte after a January 13 encounter between the NPA and government troops in sitio Sasu, barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod. In pursuit of the rebels, the military conducted aerial bombings, army foot patrols, and combat operations which only displaced Ata- Manobos like Olod and Tausan and their families who were forced to evacuate their homes and hide in the thick forest of Pantaron Range.

Forced evacuation

According to Pasaka, a regional confederation of lumad groups in Southern Mindanao, and the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples or (Sagip), residents of at least 17 villages in Talaingod were gravely affected by the military operations.

The group also documented 183 families or 1, 098 individuals, forced to flee from the sitios of Bagang, Damagan, Laslasakan, Basagang, Nalubas and Sasu. Both Pasaka and Sagip groups went to the rescue of these affected areas after the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, the local lumad organization of Ata-Manobos in Talaingod, sought their help.

But the Talaingod municipality denied that an evacuation was happening among lumad communities in Talaingod.

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