Magpet tribal leaders decry military harassment

Aug. 16, 2012

“They insisted we are NPAs because we live in the mountains.  But I told them that we lumads don’t live in urban areas, rather in the hinterlands because it is where we get our source of living” — Datu Tinoy Noa

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Tribal leaders from Magpet town in Arakan Valley, Cotabato Province decry harassment by the military’s 57th Infantry Battalion.

Sixty-year old Datu Rongquilio Elam told that he, along with other tribal leaders, was accused by the military to be behind the killing of paramilitary Kumander Ibon.

Kumander Ibon, whose real name is Abantas Ansabo, was killed on July 27 in Sitio Kiapat, Ganatan village in Arakan town, Cotabato province.  The New People’s Army (NPA) has owned up to the killing based on a statement e-mailed to the media dated July 29.

“I don’t understand why they accused us when the NPA already claimed they are responsible for Ibon’s death,” Rongquilio said, adding that he is his nephew.  “What happened to him has pained us also.”
Ibon is Rongquilio’s nephew with his second-degree cousin.

“But his death also brought relief and peace to the people in our area, especially in Ganatan village,” the tribal leader said.  Ganatan is where Ibon resided.

Rongquilio said Ibon has committed a number of crimes and violations against other lumads, and even he was not spared.  “He gets whatever he wants.  And we couldn’t oppose him because he was armed, and almost always in the company of four to seven armed Baganis.”

Whenever Ibon and his gang went around the villages, Rongquilio said, they are armed with M14 rifles.  “They used firearms to harass the people,” Rongquilio said.

The NPA, who called Ibon a “notorious paramilitary leader,” said it punished Ibon for “various grave crimes against humanity and banditry.”  It also noted that 11 cases of murder were filed versus Ibon, including the killing of 19 peasants and lumads, the massacre of seven family members and the hacking of two children.  Ibon also committed frustrated murder, damage to property and slaughter of animals, theft and extortion, arson, grave threat and coercion and forced Cafgu recruitment, the NPA said.

“He had so many crimes.  He even killed his first cousin, Datu Faustino Ansabo,” Rongquilio said.  Ibon, according to him, also molested women, committed theft and seized the lands of other lumads.

“If he’s alive, the people in our area will always be in trouble,” Rongquilio said.

“We’re sorry for his death.  But at the same time, it freed us from the big problem,” Datu Tinoy Noa said in a press briefing, Wednesday.

Noa was also accused by the military as behind the killing of Ibon.  When the military and the NPA clashed in their area lately, Noa said, soldiers from the 57th IB threatened of killing them should the incident recur.

“The soldiers told me that I’m a supporter of the NPA.  But I said, I’m just a farmer who wanted good education for my children,” he said.

“They insisted we are NPAs because we live in the mountains.  But I told them that we lumads don’t live in urban areas, rather in the hinterlands because it is where we get our source of living.”
Elam and Noa are from the Manobo tribes in Sitio Bantaan, Bagumbayan village in Magpet town.

“I hope they would stop harassing us.  We’re already traumatized.  Whenever we see soldiers, we shiver in fear,” Elam said.  “What they’ve been doing has already affected our lives and livelihood,” he added.

Bai Norma Capuyan, leader of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato, said that through the years, Ibon became a bandit under the 602nd Brigade of Col. Sedillo.

“That is to break the unity of lumads,” she said.  She added, Kiapat is one of the targets of mining companies and the latter’s entry will be easier if a tribal leader is under the military’s control.

In related news, close relatives of Ibon held an indignation rally against the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Tuesday outside the office of human rights group Karapatan.

The group who called themselves Victims of Injustice, Criminalities and Terrorism in Mindanao (Victim), demanded that “punishment be meted” against the NPA.  They burned a flag of Karapatan and the NPA.

But Capuyan said the group is barking at the wrong tree.  She added, the group should air their protest to government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights, them being under the military.

“We firmly believe that they are controlled by the military because Kumander Ibon was also under the military’s control,” Capuyan said.

She said, Karapatan is a group that struggles to find justice for the victims of state agents.  Instead, she advised Victim to file a case at the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Government of the Philippines and the NDFP.  (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/

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