Nearly 200 Lumad are being held by the Philippine Army in Surigao del Sur to prevent them from participating in a rally on the occassion of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Tandag City today, human rights group Karapatan said in an alert.
The group said 36th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army soldiers in full battle gear put up a check point at Barangay Gamut, Tago town to prevent the Lumad from attending the local People’s SONA protests Surigao del Sur’s capital city today.
Around 15 soldiers in full battle gear put up the check point and were joined by intelligence officers in civilian clothing and Philippine National Police officers, Karapatan’s Caraga chapter said in its alert.
The soldiers ordered the Lumad to alight from their habal-habal motorcycles and told to assemble on the side of the road from four to eight o’clock this morning, the group said.
Karapatan said the soldiers later called up controversial local Indigenous People Municipal Representative to the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples Rico Maca who arrived on board a white van after just 30 minutes.
Maca confiscated the Lumad’s identification cards and proceeded to check each from his book of photos of alleged New People’s Army rebels.
“Ah, nakaila ko ani. Mga pulang araw man mo! Mga rebelde mo! Solid na sila didto sa Purok 8 [Tambonon, Bolhoon, San Miguel,” Maca reportedly exclaimed. [A, I know you people. You are “red suns”. You are rebels. You are already solid here in Area 8.)
Maca was alleged to be connected to the paramilitary group led by a Hasmin Acevedo operating in barangays Umalag, Saigao, Caromata in San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur. He frequently joins patrol missions of the 36th IBPA that harasses Lumad communities in San Miguel.
He was among the three self-declared datus presented by Malacañan Palace to the media last September 2015.
Photos and videos of the Lumad were taken and their names were listed in a military logbook, Karapatan said.
Many of the participants are still being held at the checkpoint while their motorcycles have been impounded, the group reported.
Progressive groups all over the country are conducting protest rallies against Duterte today. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)