MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon—Instead of being given rice, hungry Tigwahanon Manobos have been threatened with massacre should they push through with their planned camp out in front of San Fernando, Bukidnon’s town hall.
“Huwag mong gawin sa akin iyan. Alam mo namang wala nang peace talks. Baka ma-massacre pa kayo,” San Fernando Mayor Levi Edma Sr. reportedly told the complaining Lumad. (Do not do that to me. You know the peace talks have been terminated. You might get massacred.)
Tigwahanon Manobo tribal chieftain Jimboy Mandagit said they met Edma last February 8 at the latter’s office to inquire about the food assistance sent them by the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) last September.
Mandagit said they have been hungry since they returned to Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Cawayan, San Fernando from their evacuation camp in Malaybalay City last December 12.
Mandagit and his tribe evacuated to the capital grounds last July 29 after a traditional wedding ceremony in their community was attacked by the paramilitary New Indigenous People’s Army (NIPAr) led by the fugitive Alde “Butsoy” Salusad killing a pregnant woman.
“The rice given us when we returned to our community has run out and we are really hard up. We need three more months before we could harvest what we planted since we returned,” Mandagit said.
Of the more than 200 sacks of rice and other food items sent to them by DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Edma only gave them 37 sacks of rice and distributed the rest to San Fernando’s 24 barangays, the chieftain said.
Mayor Edma reportedly refused to give them more rice unless the Manobos could present a signed authorization from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mandagit said the mayor instead gave 52 families the sum of PhP14,000.00 for them to buy equipment to clear their once-abandoned farms.
“I told the mayor that what we need is the more than 200 sacks of rice and other food items sent for us by secretary Taguiwalo,” Mandagit said.
When Mandagit said they might set up camp in front of the mayor’s office to convince him to give them the rice, the mayor then reportedly issued the threat.
“When he mentioned the massacre, I felt he was threatening us with another attack by Butchoy’s NIPAr,” Mandagit said.
“I was angry at the mayor’s heartlessness. We only wanted to show him how desperate we are so that if we die of hunger in front of the municipal hall, at least he would know,” Mandagit said.
Mayor Edma was unavailable for comment as he was visiting the town’s rural health unit, his office assistant told Kodao.
Meanwhile, Taguiwalo said he would first inquire with DSWD’s Region 10 office before issuing a statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)