DAVAO CITY – Some 174 families comprising of 914 individuals, 50 of whom are sick, are currently housed in an evacuation center in Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan Sur after they were displaced due to military operations.

According to Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan (KAMP) claimed that “some of the Banwaons are forced to leave their homes and communities to escape the combat operations” of 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.”

Malayao said a house of a resident in Sitio Tabo-Tabon was burned down by unidentified perpetrators on January 3.

Last January 23, families from the sub villages of Kimambukagyang, Tabon-tabon, Tabanganan, Nakadayas, Pig-ulingan, Mimpalaos, Maputi, Kandiisan, Tambo and KM 48 evacuated. The next day, on January 24, families from Sitio Agduka evacuated to Barangay Balit.

In a separate statement, the armed forces alleged that the New People’s Army “intimidated the indigenous peoples” causing the massive evacuation during the weekend.
“In a special meeting called by the LGU of San Luis on January 26, 2015, it was reported by the Municipal Mayor Ronaldo Y Codera that in his conversation with the evacuees, the NPAs forced the community to evacuate because of a pending ” massive operations”,” said Major Ezra Balagtey, Civic Military Operations (CMO) staff of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

CMO official of the 26th IB, a certain 1LT Sarsagat, according to Balagtey, said that they were “immersed in the area to facilitate social services and development our COPD (Community Organizing for Peace and Development) teams.”

Malayao, however, said the evacuation of the IPs followed after the killing of the village chief in Barangay Balit December last year.

“The human rights violations against the Banwaon people in the mountains of Agusan del Sur escalated after the military’s alleged killing of Necasio “Angis” Precioso Sr on December 22,” Malayao said.

Precioso was the barangay captain of Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur and “a defender of the Banwaon people’s rights.”

The night before his killing on December 21, Precioso reportedly had a row with MSgt. Andres Villaganas of the Army’s 26th IB. The village chief demanded the military to pull-out from the community, as encampment of military forces in civilian zones is a violation of international humanitarian law.

The following day, Precioso was gunned down by motorcycle-riding gunmen while walking with his son.

“Kapitan Angis was a beloved defender of the Banwaon tribe. His killing is an atrocity that the indigenous people will not forget,” Malayao said.

After the Precioso was killed, more attacks against the IP in the area ensued, said Malayao citing an incident on December 24 where an unidentified dead body which was found in Sitio Tabon-Tabon Barangay Mahagsay terrified the community, causing them to evacuate.

KAMP said the Banwaon people are protesting the operations of several mining corporations “that will encroach the ancestral domain.”

Malampay, Makilala and Tambuli mining companies are set to operate in San Luis, La Paz and Talacogon villages in the borderlines of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.

Malayao said Precioso was one of the founders of local indigenous peoples’ organization Tagdumahan, a member organization of KAMP who opposes mining operation in the area.

Currently, the lumad evacuees at barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur are in need of immediate humanitarian aid, said Malayao.

“The Banwaon people are in dire need of food, clothing, and medicine. Many are getting sick in the cramped evacuation site. This is an escalating humanitarian crisis that will only cease if the military will pull-out of the IP communities,” Malayao said. (davaotoday.com)

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