DAVAO CITY – A member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit  in Agusan del Sur has filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo and Habeas Corpus against leaders of indigenous peoples (IP) organizations who allegedly “convinced” the Banwaon tribe community to evacuate from their homes.

Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) reported that charges were filed against two of their council members and five others after a “successful campaign” to make the military pull-out in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

The petition were filed against Meliza Amado Cuartero, Jomorito Goaynon, Ejoy Precioso, Saguitan Tugay, Julieto Tawide Gomez, Reneboy Helarion Cuartero, and Tina Julieta Tawide by Teddy Tumbaga Ostos a Cafgu member and resident of Mahayhay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

Goaynon is chairperson and Tawide is media officer of Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (Kasalo). Both are also council members of Katribu, said Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of Katribu, a group who joined  the partylist elections in 2010 and 2013.

Goaynon is also the chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization. While Cuartero is a representative of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Tugay is a leader of the local IP group Tagdumahan.

Malayao said Ostos named the seven as respondents for convincing the community of Banwaon indigenous peoples, including his son’s family in Mahayhay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur to flee their homes to escape military and New People’s Army clashes in the area.

Malayao said Ostos claimed the respondents are now detaining his pregnant wife and children.

New strategy

In a press conference here on Wednesday, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, Colonel Romeo Brawner, confirmed that cases will be filed against the “leaders of the Bakwit.”

Brawner said they are on the process of “gathering necessary evidence and statements from the different witnesses so that this will come [as] a strong case.”

“So we’re not just doing file a case just for the sake of filing a case, but we have to make a strong case against them,” Brawner said.

However, Brawner denied that the armed forces will file the case, “but it is the whole of the government,” he said.

Brawner said the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front use “ Taktikang Bakwit” as a new strategy.

“What they do is they force the people to evacuate from the area,” Brawner said adding that the CPP-NPA-NDF uses the military operation as a reason for the residents to evacuate so as not to be caught in the crossfire between the armed forces and the NPA fighters.

Brawner said the evacuees are then brought to evacuation center “also controlled by the CPP-NPA-NDF.”

“What they do is to prevent the local government from delivering the basic services to the evacuees or they will get the relief goods and they distribute it, disburse the relief goods themselves,” Brawner said.

On January 23-24, some 174 families comprising of 914 individuals, from the villages of   Kimambukagyang, Tabon-tabon, Tabanganan, Nakadayas, Pig-ulingan, Mimpalaos, Maputi, Kandiisan, Tambo, KM 48 and Sitio Agduka evacuated to Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

A humanitarian mission dubbed “Balit Mission” was carried out by cause-oriented groups on March 8 to 9. The mission documented 93 cases of human rights violations including three cases of death in the evacuation.

On March 18 the army announced it would pull out from the communities of Barangay Balit.

In an interview with Davao Today on Wednesday, Goaynon said the community of the indigenous people’s decided themselves to evacuate.

“Kalumbay, Karapatan and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines only assisted the evacuees as they are our fellow tribesmen,” Goaynon said citing that the local group Tagdumahan is also affiliated in Kalumbay.

Goaynon said the deaths of the children in the evacuation area should not be charged to them but to the military’s implementation of the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD).

“Dili man na mobakwit ang mga lumad kung wala pa nag-COPD ang military nga ilahang pugson pagpa-surrender ang mga lumad nga ilang gituohang mga supporter sa NPA (The IPs will not evacuate if not for the COPD of the military where they forced tribes people, whom they believe are NPA supporters, to surrender),” Goaynon said.

Goaynon also said the IP community was forced to evacuate due to the threats of an Ading Pascual who he identified as a Cafgu under the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion.

Goaynon said the deaths of the children in the evacuation centers can also be blamed to the lack of assistance given by the local government unit.

He said one of the children of the evacuees was brought to Talacogon hospital but was not treated by the doctors.


Malayao said the filing of charges against the IP leaders “is an act of harassment.”

“The filing of trumped-up charges against the indigenous peoples and human rights workers is a well-worn practice of the military and of large businesses to inconvenience and harass people who oppose and defy them. However, this recently concocted case against our leaders and supporters takes the cake in absurdity. It is a preposterous case meant to harass, intimidate, and impair the work of our leaders and their organizations in Mindanao,” Malayao said.

“The evacuation was a community decision, and in fact an act of defiance against militarization and human rights violation being committed against them by the 26th IB,” Malayao said.

Malayao also added that they cast serious doubts whether Ostos signed the petition freely.

“An investigation must be done if Ostos was under duress or threatened to concede into filing this petition. Those accused of detention are well-known and respected community leaders,” Malayao said.

According to Katribu, in the Aquino administration alone, a total of 169 indigenous peoples’ leaders and community members from 14 different indigenous peoples communities were filed with trumped-up charges, and experienced illegal arrests and detention. (davaotoday.com)


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