Higaonons to Villanueva: ‘We need land, not money’

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.

Gen. R. Villanueva of the 4th IDPA. (Mindanao Gold Star Daily photo)

“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.)

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)