March 18, 2015 – After months since evacuating from their communities, Lumad Bakwits in Brgy. Balit San Luis, Agusan Del Sur may finally be able to return to their homes as army officials promised to pull out from civilian facilities and cease camping near populated areas.
This declaration was made by no less than Lt. Col. Ricardo Dumawa, Batallion Commander of the Army’s 26th IB during a dialogue set at Balit’s baranggay hall. Local officials represented by Agusan Del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza and San Luis Mayor Ronaldo Corvera also reminded troops that these were prohibited. The Lumad leaders who attested to the truthfulness of their claims against the army’s abuses could not help but applaud in agreement. Local officials likewise assured the Lumads of a safe passage and food assistance as they return to their communities.
Witnessing the dialogue were more than 200 placard bearing Banwaon Bakwits who valiantly marched from their evacuation site where they have been staying since January of this year.
This recent development sent waves of relief to the lumad bakwits and their support groups who have painstakingly pieced together a vigorous campaign to remove the operating troops in the area who are responsible for a plethora of abuses including camping in civilian facilities such as village halls and Lumad schools, recruiting paramilitary forces and being implicated in the killing of village chief Necasio Precioso Sr.
“The urgent dialogue set up by the local government was their reaction to a multifaceted and vigorous effort to pressure them to act; from sustained protest actions, camp-out protest, lobbying efforts, dialogue with the Army’s Eastern Mindanao in Davao, international solidarity mission and others,” says Kalumbay Chairman Jomorito G. Goaynon.
The municipal mayor also volunteered to visit one of the eight Lumad schools which ceased operations after being affected by militarization to better know the program and its staff for local coordination.
Goaynon adds that key to the success of the campaign was the courage mustered by the lumads to face the armed forces who terrorized their communities. ###