DAVAO CITY – Residents scored the alleged abuses of a tribal chieftain in Caraga town, Davao Oriental province which have triggered military offensives and displaced at least 399 families.

Grace Curso, council member of the Pasaka Confederation of Lumads Compostela-Davao Oriental said the residents are blaming tribal chieftain Cupertino Banugan for the military offensives in Barangay Pichon, Caraga town, on Friday, July 8.

Curso, who joined the fact-finding mission on Tuesday, said the Banugan collects royalty fees and other dues out of the residents’ falcatta logs sale and other businesses for the last 31 years.

She said that if a villager builds a house, he would be asked to pay P10,000 to Banugan. Curso said Banugan  would also ask for a percentage of the villager’s produce of cash crops like abaca or livestock.

Banugan is an appointed tribal chieftain by the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples.

“They also said that when they asked for help from the government no action was taken because Banugan is very influential,” she said.

“So it is only now that the residents has asked for the help of the NPA whom they believe will help them,” Curso added.

She said that is the reason why the NPAs arrived at the area this June.

NPA’s ultimatum

Lt. Miguel Diorda of the 67th IB told Davao Today that the NPA has given an ultimatum that they will attack Sitio Sangab, one of the 18 sitios in Barangay Pichon, if Banugan will not surrender.

Diorda said they even received a letter about the ultimatum urging the Army to surrender Banugan. He said they received the letter on June 24. But Diorda said he was not sure of the date on the letter.

“They gave us a letter which says that we have to surrender Cuper (Banugan),” Diorda said.

He said the NPA’s arrived in the area on June 22.

He said the NPA has threatened to attack Sitio Sangab, a known stronghold of anti-communist paramilitary forces, if Banugan will not surrender.

Captain Eliseo Marcolino also told Davao Today on Monday, July 11  that the Army’s presence was to drive out the NPAs.

He said they were aware of the land disputes in the area but said that it is “an internal problem between the natives.”

“Kaya mi niaksyon mi diha, kay nidako ang problema sa presensya sa NPA kay ilahang gi-claim ang kinabuhi daw ni Cupertino Banugan, ni tribal chieftain (We only responded because of the presence of the NPAs who are claiming for the life of Banugan),” Marcolino said.

He said until a case is filed against Banugan in court, “he is innocent”.

‘Coddled by the military’

In a statement, Rubi Del Mundo, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao said the Army “has coddled and deputized its paramilitary Mandaya Ancestral Defense Unit (Manadu) to commit rights violations against Lumads in Caraga and Baganga in the Davao Oriental” for decades.

Del Mundo said that the armed paramilitary is headed both by Banugan and his brother Ramon.

Del Mundo said the Manadu militia killed Romeo Mapando in April 2011 following a land dispute against Banugan.

“They also killed Mali Lagungan and Roque Banagan. In 2013, the same men strafed the house of brothers Roming and Espiditio Justo in Sitio Kaliongan, tied their hands together and threatened to kill them when Banugan suspected the farmers of selling their own abaca hemp without his knowledge,” he said.

Del Mundo said the Mandaya residents in Barangay Pichon “lived in virtual martial law” under Banugan and the Manadu since mid-1980s.

“The Manadu, like the Alamara and other paramilitaries proliferating in the region, is being used by the AFP to conduct counter-revolutionary war and sow terror against Lumads and other civilians. The AFP, especially during Oplan Bayanihan, employs psywar tactics to disunite the Lumads, foments anti-revolutionary sentiment and recruits paramilitaries as mercenaries to commit the most heinous war crimes,” said Del Mundo.

Davao Today is still trying to get the side of Banugan as of press time. (davaotoday.com)

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