DAVAO CITY – Tribal groups expressed concern over the fresh warning of a military-formed tribal armed unit that it was declaring a pangayaw, or tribal war, against the New People’s Army.
At least three tribal organizations – Karadyawan, Pasaka and Kalumaran – warned that the declaration of a pangayaw in Pantukan, Davao del Norte, by the paramilitary group Alamara would result to more civilian casualties instead, as the pangayaw is known to spare no living creatures, be it animals or humans, who would pass or is found in the area of engagement.
In a television interview this week, Datu Larris Masaloon, a known Alamara leader, and surrounded by several men wearing red head bands declared a pangayaw against the NPAs, who Masaloon said would force them to drive out of the area in Kapalong and “to evacuate to Davao City.”
The three groups said Masaloon would likely vent their anger on “organizations and civilians perceived to be NPA supporters.”
Datu Mintroso Malibato, spokesperson of Karadyawan, warned that “Larris killed two people in our community because he suspected them to be NPA supporters, and he harassed and tortured countless more”.
He suspected the motive to be linked to the counterinsurgency campaign of government, with the Alamara members often seen in military patrols in many areasa in Mindanao.
Members of Karadyawan, said Larris “has always been an Alamara leader and not a tribal leader.”
“Larris and those men with him do not represent anybody but the Alamara,” he said.
He said that “it is the military who used Larris before and they are now using him again now to declare pangayaw.”
Masaloon told the television interview that they acted on “their own will.”
Isidro Indao, spokesperson of Pasaka, a confederation of lumads (indigenous peoples, or IP) organizations in Mindanao, also accused the Army of “masterminding the creating of IP paramilitary units.”
“It was (retired) Brigadier General Felipe Berroyo who first created the Alamara in the 90s in the hinterlands of Davao City then it was strengthened by then Colonel Eduardo del Rosario of the 71st Infantry Battalion,” said Indao.
Indao said “it was the military who armed them, funded them and ordered them what to do.”
“It was copied by several army units which were assigned to areas of IPs. Sooner or later a paramilitary group would emerge but names vary like Pulahan, Bagani and Alamara,” said Indao.
Colonel Harold Cabreros, commander of the Army’s 1003rd Infantry Brigade, said in a television interview that they “do not support the pangayaw declaration.”
“We respect pangayaw as part of their customary law,” said Cabreros.
Units of the brigade operate in the Kapalong area,
Norma Capuyan, spokesperson of Kalumaran, a Mindanao alliance of indigenous peoples, said “pangayaw is supposedly a customary practice of the IPs to resolve conflict.”
“It was not the community who declared it but the Alamara as instructed by the military,” she said.
Capuyan, who attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York last May, said they were “unanimous that using the IPs as a paramilitary group is a crime.”
Capuyan cited the case of the Manobos from Talaingod, Davao del Norte and said that “indigenous people declare pangayaw to threats against ancestral land because if we don’t protect we have nothing.”
“It is just to declare pangayaw against multinational corporations who want take our ancestral land from us and conduct mining activities and put up plantations,” said Capuyan.
Hanimay Suazo, of the human rights group Karapatan said they have asked the help of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is also the chairperson of the Regional Peace and Order Council (Rpoc) to help resolve the issue.
Karapatan gathered more than 100 individuals from different volunteer groups to a “fact-finding and mercy mission” Thursday.
“We want to find out the facts from the area and the residents and to extend help. We have initial reports of human rights violations in the area and we will confirm this,” Suazo said.
Suazo said they have initially agreed with Kapalong Mayor Edgardo Timbol to a “joint fact-finding mission” but she said “they (local government of Kapalong) went ahead of us.”
Bishop Hamuel Tequis, spokesperson of the peace group Exodus for Justice and Peace, said “we hope the local government and the group who declared pangayaw will let the fact-finding team pass without any trouble.”