Higaonon evacuees face harassments in Cagayan de Oro

[UPDATED] Lumad evacuees encamped at the Misamis Oriental capitol grounds were harassed Wednesday night by men who introduced themselves as Cagayan de Oro City information officers, playing loud music and showing films produced by the military.

In alerts posted online by supporters, two men were seen operating a movie screen while loud music was blasting against the evacuation site apparently aimed at intimidating the evacuees.

A source from Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization told Kodao that when confronted by the leaders of the evacuees, the men said they were personnel of the Cagayan de Oro city information office, which in turn was ordered by the provincial government of Misamis Oriental to set up the movie and sound system.

When Kalumbay inquired with the provincial government, it denied issuing such an order, the source added.

Another source told Kodao the city government has denied they had anything to do with the incident.

The Kalumbay source said that while the two men were setting up their equipment, a woman, who introduced herself as a city government social worker, made the rounds among the evacuees handing out biscuits and juice.

“Upon hindsight, the woman appeared to have been diverting the evacuees’ attention from the two men,” the source said.

The evacuees suspect the woman is a police personnel, having been previously seen during Lumad rallies in the city, the source added.

Subsequent Facebook posts by supporters also said military and police elements have encircled the evacuation site throughout the night.

On Tuesday night, a nine-year old evacuee was abducted and nearly raped by two unidentified men but managed to escape.

The victim’s mother is not interested in filing a report with the police, local newspaper reports said.

Meanwhile, the military has accused the evacuees of being used by so-called anti-government groups for staging the evacuation.

Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division spokesperson 1st Lieutenant Tere Ingente told local reporters the evacuees must go home and not allow themselves to “be used by organizations as propaganda to advance their own self-serving agenda.”

Around 35 Higaonon families has again put up an evacuation center at the capitol grounds after troopers of the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army has occupied their homes in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

One hundred and fifty-eight evacuees left their homes last May 26 and first set up camp at Lagonglong town proper last May 29 after days of trekking.

It is the community’s sixth forced evacuation since 2015.

The Higaonons believe that the intensified military operations aim to drive them away from their ancestral lands which cover parts of Mt. Balatukan and facilitate the entry of large-scale mining companies and agribusiness plantations, Lumad organization Katungod earlier said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)