By LITO RULONA/Mindanao Gold Star Daily
Cagayan de Oro City–TWO indigenes’ organizations over the weekend lashed out at 4th Infantry Division commander Ronald Villanueva in response to his accusation that Higaonon evacuees from Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental were paid to camp out at the capitol grounds here.
In a statement, the groups Tagtabulon and Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization described Maj. Gen. Villanueva’s accusation as “laughable” and “uninformed, brainless, heartless joke that could only come from their worldview that revolves around monetized appreciation of the world.”
“We do not need money. We need our land,” said Tagtabulon spokesperson Sariza Acosta.
The groups said Villanueva’s accusation that the evacuees were paid reflected the view that everything comes with a price and that anyone can become paid mercenaries.
“Simply because money is their motivation for everything doesn’t mean it is also the same for the Lumad,” reads part of the statement signed by Acosta, Tagtabulon chairman Reynaldo Ayuma and Kalumbay chairman Jomorito Goaynon.
They added: “We have been subsistence farmers, taking only from our territories what we need, nothing in excess, nothing for gain. Our principles are based on our harmonious relationship with our environment. We do not depend on anybody because we are able to provide for our families. That is, when we are in our territories, we are able to freely access our resources.”
They said ancestral land was being taken away from the Higaonons in the hinterlands of Misamis Oriental, and “now they charge us of being paid evacuees.”
Tagtabulon and Kalumbay said they now realize that it has become a futile exercise to challenge the government to understand the Higaonon people’s development framework.
“The framework of the military is their high salaries — the bonuses that the government is giving them, the cash incentives given to them every time they are able to report a ‘surrenderer.’ Because they could not encash anything from our member communities, they are attacking us,” the groups added.
“We do not need money to protect our ancestral domains. It is like being paid to protect our lives, our families. It is highly illogical for us. We do not appreciate their logic of cash. And we do not intend to understand it. Our relationship with the land cannot be bought. Our lands are invaluable to us. Our principles come without a price.”
The two organizations said that if the lives of Higaonons “are so cheap that it can be bought with salaries, do not liken us to you. We have no respect for your kind of ‘defenders.’”
Last week, Villanueva said the indigenes were paid and were being exploited by the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army. #
(This article on Mindanao Gold Star Daily is republished by Kodao with permission.)