DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Lumad leaders expressed disappointment over President Rodrigo Duterte’s failed promises to protect their communities from dislocation as a result of military operations, moreso, with the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao.
Datu Jimboy Mandagit, chairperson of Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan, told Davao Today that they had already been living in fear of the military even before Duterte declared Martial Law.
Last year, a group called New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR) fired upon a Lumad wedding reception of in Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon.
The firing took place hours before President Duterte lifted his unilateral ceasefire declaration towards the New People’s Army in July.
Makinit Gayuran, pregnant of six months, died in the assault while five other minors were also injured.
Read related story: Pregnant woman dies, 5 minors injured in militia shooting in Bukidnon
Mandagit said NIPAR was a paramilitary organization led by a certain Butsoy Salusad who had “connections with the military” as he could be seen scot-free despite having a standing warrant of arrest for a previous case of murder.
Mandagit, who leads the Tigwahanon Manobo in San Fernando, Bukidnon, was among those who evacuated to The United Church of Christ in the Philippines Compound Haran in 2015, following a series of harassments allegedly committed by NIPAR.
Mandagit’s group was also among the 3,000 Lumad and Moro people who participated in the Lakbayan, a protest caravan of national minorities that marched all the way to Manila to air their grievances against the government.
ML worsens the situation
Mandagit said the implementation of Martial Law only worsened their situation.
He said the Martial Law had only “emboldened the NIPAR and other groups to abuse us further.”
He urged Duterte to fulfill his promises of assisting the Lumad back to their communities and by disbanding the paramilitary forces.
“We call on President Duterte to fulfill his promise when he said that he would readily allow the Lumad to go home if he would be president. It is true that the Lumad evacuees have returned home, but the paramilitary organizations continue to grow fiercer and stronger,” he said.
Mandagit also revealed that he was being hunted by paramilitary organizations in Bukidnon.
Mandagit said his sister-in-law was almost arrested on June 1 after she was mistaken as his wife, but was later released after community members attested to her identity.
Meanwhile, Datu Camilo Asulan, spokesperson of the Kahugpongan sa mga Mag-Uuma sa Kitaotao said that Lumad communities felt “no change” under the Duterte administration.
Asulan criticized Duterte’s “all-out-war policy” against the New People’s Army and the communities.
“We call for the end of martial law and this all-out war, [as well as] the intensified bombing and abuse in the communities,” he added.
Asulan and his group left UCCP Haran September 23 last year, but were not able to proceed to their communities after finding out that the military was still in their area.
Instead, they settled at the nearby Barangay Sagundanon, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
Asulan was worried that the dislocation has taken its toll on the education of their children.
The children stopped schooling after their village captain closed their school.
Read related story: Bukidnon barangay captain closes tribal school
Like Mandagit, Asulan was among those elated to hear Duterte’s promises. Like Mandagit, Asulan said he is looking for the fulfillment of those promises.
“Unfortunately, there has been no change since Duterte sat as president,” he said. (davaotoday.com)