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Warrior chieftain hostaged and tricked to surrender, Lumad say

The reported surrender of a legendary tribal leader last June 9 in Talaingod, Davao del Norte was an orchestrated gathering by the military that victimized the ailing and elderly chieftain, Lumad organizations and leaders said.

Lumad organizations Salupongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region said Datu Guibang Apoga, who led the Manobo’s successful resistance against logging and mining operations at the Pantaron Mountain Range, did not surrender nor spoke of giving up their struggle to defend their ancestral land.

“In his speech delivered at the assembly, Datu Guibang Apoga spoke of his desire for the Lumad schools to continue to serve his people. Owing to his failing health and increasing age, he spoke of what he perceived as his inadequacies as the tribe’s tribal chieftain,” Salupongan said in a statement.

“Nowhere in his brief discourse did he speak of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of his tribe and his people,” the group added.

The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) said Apoga was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who has defected to the military by turning over his M16 rifle to Brigadier General Ernesto C Torres Jr AFP, Commander of the 1003rd Brigade during the ceremony.

Five hundred Lumads witnessed the event, the military said.

“After more than two decades of being ‘out’ and having been legendary among his circle for his political efforts in supporting the NPA, Datu Gibang is now back to Nasilaban. His surrender would definitely hasten the clearing of areas in and around Talaingod from CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA influence,” the 10th IDPA added.

Pasaka chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, however, said Apoga was lured into attending an assembly of about 150 Lumad only, orchestrated by the paramilitary group Alamara and the military.

Fanagel said Apoga was “hostaged and pressured” by the overwhelming presence of the military.

A downcast Datu Guibang presenting a rifle to a group of euphoric army officers. (Philippine Army photo)

“In his brief speech, Datu Guibang never said mining operations may already be allowed on Pantaron and their Lumad schools should already be closed,” Fanagel told Kodao, quoting Salupongan council officers and members present at the event.

Fanagel said Rural Missionaries of the Philippines paramedics tried to approach Apoga to give him a physical check up but the octogenarian chieftain was constantly surrounded by the military.

Fanagel added that based on the chieftain’s medical history, they suspect Apoga to be suffering from a kidney ailment.

Apoga and other Manobo chieftains in Talaingod launched a pangayaw (a tribal war) in 1993 to prevent logging operations by the Alcantara & Sons (Alsons) corporation.

Apoga and the other datu (chieftain) formed the Salupongan ‘Ta Igkanugon (Unity for the Defense of Ancestral Land) fought off Alsons’s private army and the military with native weapons and old rifles and won.

The government, however, ordered the arrest of Apoga and 25 other datus and have since been hunted by the military, until June 9.

Salupongan said the government has failed to sway its members by deceiving Apoga into attending a tribal assembly that turned into a fake surrender ceremony.

“[The government] has grown desperate in quelling our ranks in the last few months, first by pouring an overwhelming number of state forces in our lands by three Army battalions, second by campaigning for the closure of community schools and harassing community teachers, students and parents, and third by finagling Datu Guibang as a surrendered leader,” Salupongan said.

Apoga (center, third row) looking sullen as a military officer leads a collective reading of an oath. (Philippine Army photo)

Apoga’s fellow Talaingod chieftain, Bai Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay said the military and the paramilitary Alamara used Apoga’s frail health and advanced age into “pressuring” him to a “staged surrender ceremony.”

In a statement, Bibiyaon rallied the Manobo people to remain unfaltering in defending the Pantaron Range, reminding them of their decades of resistance against military operations from Alsa Lumad and Alamara since the 1990s.

“Many more leaders from among our people who continue to suffer from hunger, government neglect and military abuses will rise to continue Salugpongan’s legacy of resistance. Hence, to all the Manobo and lumad people, our resolve must remain unfaltering like the Pantaron on which generations of our people have lived and depended on for generations,” Bibiyaon said.

“We must prevail for as long as the causes of our oppression continue to persist and deny us of the right to live with dignity,” Bibiyaon said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Lumad schools face harassments as new school year opens

Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Talangingod, Davao del Norte said at least five of their campuses have either been occupied or are being harassed by government as the new school year opened today.

“Military troops have occupied our schools and conducted roving operations that hamper our members’ [work for] the start of our preparation since early last week,” Lumad school teacher Joan Esperancilla in a statement said.

At STTICLC’s Tibucag campus in Barangay Dagohoy, about 20 soldiers of the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion camped inside the school since May 29.

In Sitio KM 30, Barangay Dagohoy, about 25 soldiers in full battle gear had been conducting patrols around the STTICLC school while occupying six houses in the community, Lumad teachers reported.

In Sitio KM 17 also in Barangay Dagohoy, about 23 soldiers camped at the Lumad school but eventually left when confronted by the teacher.

In Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil, more than 40 soldiers had set camp inside the Lumad school campus.

On June 3 in Sitio Nasilaban, also in Barangay Palma Gil, armed soldiers entered the campus and interrupted the students and teachers cleaning the school and asked for the whereabouts of other teachers.

Throughout the week, soldiers put up checkpoints along roads going to the communities targeting Lumad school teachers, STTICLC said.

During the Sitio Nasilaban school’s flag ceremony Monday morning, students noticed a flying machine they suspect is a military drone hovering above them.

Soldiers then arrived and ordered the students to harvest vegetables and bring the produce directly to the nearby military camp, STTILCI said.

STTILCI said the incidents have affected 241 students and 11 teachers in five campuses.

“STTILCI condemns the intimidation of the military and paramilitary forces against our teachers, students and community members in Talaingod, Davao del Norte at the opening of this school year,” the group said.

AFP soldiers occupying a Lumad school. (SOS photo)

New school year, old problems

The Save our Schools (SOS) Network said it is not only the Lumad Schools in Talaingod that face the same old problems.

At the “Bakwit School” in Haran, Davao City, Lumad students from Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte started another school year away from their community.

Lumad schoolteacher Ricky Balilid said they had been teaching the students at the evacuation center since 2015 as the threats from the paramilitary Alamara continue to hound them.

“The Alamara have looked at our school with suspicion that this is a New People’s Army school. And they have intimidated teachers, parents and even students from attending this school,” Balilid said.

Many Lumad schools set up and ran by religious groups or non-government organizations all over Mindanao suffer the same situation, SOS said.

In all, 56 schools have been forcibly closed and 18 others destroyed last school year from military and paramilitary attacks, forcing 2,000 children to stop their schooling.

There had also been 2,300 students and teachers harassed by the paramilitary and soldiers, including incidents of being forced to be included in the fake list of NPA surrenderees, the group said.

“It is sad that, while Lumad schools are helping the government and Department of Education (DepEd) in providing education opportunities for the Lumad children, they are not getting help. Instead, they are getting attacked for helping the Lumads,” SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said.

The SOS said Lumad schools have been partners with the DepEd in implementing Indigenous People’s Education Program (IPED) for the past years.

This is proof that Lumad schools are legitimate and carry DepEd programs that serve to combat illiteracy, Valle said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Congress mangled BBL, critics say

Critics have slammed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) measures passed by both Houses of Congress, saying these fail to recognize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination.

In separate statements, Suara Bangsamoro and Bayan Muna have dismissed the approved versions of the bills at the House of Representatives and the Senate as a betrayal of the Bangsamoro people’s long-running struggle for justice and autonomy.

The House of Representative passed HB 6475 Wednesday while the Senate passed Thursday Senate Bill 1717 a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte has finally certified the bills as urgent.

“This milquetoast [submissive one] that they are passing off as BBL leaves the Bangsamoro with no control over the resources of the area they define as our autonomous area,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Aba said.

“Just like in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Law), this BBL appoints the new Bangsamoro political entity to facilitate the wholesale selling of our territories and natural resources to foreign corporations under the guise of bringing growth and development to Bangsamoro areas,” Aba said.

In his speech explaining his rejection of the House of Representatives version of the BBL, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said he could not vote for a measure that is full of compromises.

“This latest and watered-down proposed BBL is unacceptable. This Substituted HB 6475 does away with all the efforts to push for the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination in the face of many limitations imposed by the government,” Zarate said.

Zarate added many provisions of the version submitted to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Council were deleted or changed.

“These include the downgrading of their territory to an autonomous region in the Bangsamoro, instead of simply ‘Bangsamoro’; the [bill’s] use of ‘geographical area’ instead of territory; and the conduct of plebiscites in the additional territory,” Zarate explained.

The Mindanaoan legislator added the deletion of the Bangsamoro’s exclusive control over power and energy, natural resources, public utilities, Bangsamoro police, and many others are also very important issues.

“The Substituted HB 6475 does not answer the Bangsamoro’s aspiration for their right to self-determination and genuine autonomy. This measure deserves to be opposed,” Zarate said.

Suara Bangsamo said it supports calls made by Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to truly scrutinize the contents of the present BBL and called on their compatriots to oppose provisions they say compromise the fight of the Moro people for self-determination.

“As the government continue to disregard Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination, it is in the hands of Moro people to continue to fight for genuine right to self-determination,” Aba said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group accuses police, military of massacre in Matalam

A Bangsamoro group has accused the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the “massacre” of nine Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who have reportedly already surrendered before being mercilessly mowed down with automatic gunfire last May 25 in North Cotabato.

The Suara Bangsamoro said that in the guise of an anti-drug operation in Sitio Biao, Kilada Village, Matalam, North Cotabato, a combined PNP and military team swooped down on the victims who are members of the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The nine victims reportedly surrendered during the raid and were disarmed by state forces who then fired at them, killing all on the spot.

“This is not an isolated case of massacre and extra-judicial killings. On December 8, 2017, three members of the MILF were killed by joint anti-drug operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP in Brgy. Koronadal Proper, Polomolok, South Cotabato,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba in a statement said.

On May 19, 2018, Mindatu Aminola, another MILF member from Brgy. Olonoling, Tupi, South Cotabato was also killed by state forces under the same pretext – anti-drug operation, Aba added.

Suara Bangsamoro said it believes the recent spate of killings and massacre were committed by state forces under the guise of ‘anti-drug’ operations.

Earlier, Police Superintendent Bernard Tayong, North Cotabato Police Office spokesperson said police and military operatives were serving a search warrant on suspected drug suspects Dadting Kasan and Intan Aban in Sitio Biao at about 11:15 p.m. on Friday when they were fired upon by the victims.

Kasan and Aban were among those killed in the incident.

The MILF, however, said the victims were their legitimate members.

MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) head Butch Malang said the nine fatalities were disarmed before they were shot at close range by policemen and soldiers on Friday and Saturday.

BIAF spokesperson, Von Al-Haq added the MILF aims to file a “strong protest” with the government section of the CCCH.

“Clearly, the Duterte administration, through its US-influenced military lapdogs, are using the ‘anti-drug’ campaign to pursue and cloak its counter-insurgency program – the ‘Oplan Kapayapaan,’” Aba said.

Peace spoilers

Aba added the Rodrigo Duterte administration is jeopardizing the hard-earned gains of the peace process between the government and various Bangsamoro groups such as the MILF.

“While the Congress is discussing the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the military and the police are also busy killing the primary stakeholders of its approval,” Aba said.

Aba said that like his predecessors, Duterte lacks sincerity in upholding peace agreements with its duplicity.

“While they talk about peace, they are also committing grave human rights violations, killings and massacres pursuant to its counter-insurgency programs,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro urged the Moro people and the MILF to demand justice to their fallen comrades.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Memories of fasting in beautiful Marawi

By Angel L. Tesorero

Dubai, UAE—Dubai resident Inshirah Taib, from Marawi City in southern Philippines, has two contrasting pictures of her hometown and favourite city: Once a centre of Islamic grandeur and tradition, Marawi has been razed to the ground after Daesh-inspired Maute group laid siege to the city exactly a year ago.

Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province, is the religious centre of the Maranaos, a tight-knit indigenous Muslim community in Mindanao. With strong Muslim tradition it was renamed in 1980 as ‘Islamic City of Marawi,’ the only Islamic city in a predominantly Christian country.

“Marawi is the spiritual centre for the Maranaos, the most devout of major Muslim groups in the Philippines. Muslim moral values are part of the city code. Muslim women cover their heads, the sale of pork is forbidden and alcohol and gambling are banned,” Inshirah shares.

The city used to be full of life during the holy month. Every house had dazzling lights; women would bring out from the drawers their colorful ‘mukna’ which were used for Taraweeh prayers and the elders would stay at mosques, spending the entire holy month reading the Holy Quran,” she adds.

“But now the beauty of Marawi is gone. A year after the internecine conflict, many residents are still living in evacuation centres collectively called as ‘Tent City’. At ground zero, including our own place, the government has not yet allowed anyone to return – because of threats of unexploded bomb and ordnance. Buildings which are still precariously standing are likely to collapse after most structures suffered heavy bombings. And some residents now call our place as haunted city, because of the desolation brought by the futile war which claimed more than 1,100 lives and brought the displacement of more than 400,000 residents due to daily air strikes and intense ground combat which lasted for five months after the Maute group rampaged the city on May 23 last year,” Inshira shares.

Residents of Marawi and nearby villages had to put their lives on hold; farmers and breadwinners lost their means of livelihood. Children were forced to stop schooling. Up to now, bones and skeletons of those who were caught in the crossfire are still being unearthed from the rubbles. Worse, the faithful now have to spend Iftar and recite their prayers at the evacuation centres as bullets and bombs left gaping holes on mosques.

But this was not the Marawi that Inshirah grew up with. She shares: “At Banggolo, the heart of Marawi, where the plaza is located we had various programmes, including Islamic lectures during the month of Ramadan. There was also a contest for the most beautiful voice reading of Quran and residents would showcase their talents. Marawi used to be known as “the land of cars” because most families had cars and most of us drove, including girls or teenagers. Visiting of relatives and friends was common and highly encouraged. Once, I along with my brothers, slipped away with our father’s car just to visit friends from the nearby village.”

She continues: “Every night during Ramadan the town plaza was crowded with people enjoying all kinds of street foods and sweets. Eateries, numbering to more than a hundred, served “Palaw A Apang” (mountain of hotcakes) and different flavours of broasted or grilled chicken.”

“The well-to-do families sponsored Iftar for groups of people while the less-fortunate ones never felt hungry because Ramadan is a time of giving,” adds Inshirah, who has been a resident of Dubai for a decade and married to her kababayan (compatriot) Ahmad Jumar Taurac, and mother to one-year old Safiyyah.

“It hurts that the present generation will not experience the beauty of Marawi but its memory will never be erased in my mind. Ramadan is very much missed in my hometown but it is always in my prayers as I cry to Allah in supplication and lay prostrate on my prayer mat to revive the glory days of Marawi,” Inshirah concludes. #

(This article was originally published in The Khaleej Times)

Mindanaoans lead condemnation of Martial Law on its 1st anniversary

In the first anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, various minority groups gathered at Mendiola to denounce the effectiveness of it in bringing peace in Mindanao.

Pointing its negative effects to the people, Mindanaons led in condemning martial rule in the island, adding the military uses it to further oppress marginalized groups like the Bangsamoro and the Lumad.

Forum: A Year After Duterte’s Declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao

Progressive groups and sectoral organizations held a forum at the University of the Philippines on the anniversary of Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

Bangsamoro groups condemned the continuing imposition of martial law in the entire island of Mindanao, saying military rule is making it harder for the people to live normally.

Educators urge lifting of martial law in Mindanao

Educators who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission in the Lanao provinces last June 13 to 16 are demanding the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao.

In a press briefing at the University of the Philippines last June 20, the educators said martial law and the indiscriminate manner in which the war against terror groups in Marawi City is being conducted are creating a grave humanitarian crisis that victimizes civilians. Read more

Marawi students resent destruction of schools, humanitarian mission reports

Students in Marawi struggle to regain access to education as the new school year started amid battles between government troops and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, educators who recently visited evacuation centers in Mindanao said.

“The students harbor deep resentment because their return to their schools for the new school year has been hampered,” All UP Workers’ Union’s Felix Pariñas said.

Pariñas, who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission to Marawi and Iligan cities last June 13 to 16 was among the panellists in the Books Not Bullets: A Press Forum on the National Humanitarian Interfaith Mission & Needs Assessment by the University of the Philippines-Diliman Delegation held last June 20.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro, another mission participant, for her part said more than 20,000 students in the affected areas remain unaccounted for by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education.

She added that 1,424 teachers are still trapped in Marawi itself, 700 of whom are unaccounted for or have yet to report their status to the DepEd, Castro reported.

The DepEd has reportedly mobilized the Learning Continuity Program that aims to transfer internally-displaced students to schools near Marawi.

But Pariñas said DepEd’s program still has little or no effect as students in various evacuation centers are unsure about their chances of resuming schooling.

UP System Information Office’s Jo Lontoc, also a mission delegate to Iligan and Marawi, said there have yet to be arrangements by the DepEd, the schools and the local government units on the affected students’ situation.

“The fighting broke out during the enrolment period.  They really don’t know if they can still go back to school in the near future,” Lontoc said.

The students also expressed hopes for an end the aerial bombings in Marawi, the delegates said.

“They demand an end to the aerial bombing, hoping they would still have schools to go back to when the fighting stops,” Pariñas said.

“Tattered, ragged,” Pariñas described an elementary school the mission visited.

Lontoc added that many students staying in Marawi dormitories were also forced to evacuate and have yet to reunite with their families.

“They are also evacuees who are separated from their families,” Lontoc said.

Pariñas added that students fear for their safety after President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement he would condone rape by soldiers as Mindanao is under martial law anyway.

“They dread the consequences of the President’s statement,” Pariñas said.

Inefficient response

The mission delegates said that while DepEd organized relief efforts to aid students with school bags and school uniforms, these are bogged down by inefficient distribution as well as safety concerns and martial law restrictions.

“Multiple checkpoints worsen already existing issues such as traffic, even outside Marawi. This limits the inflow of volunteers such as the UP delegates from carrying out their mission,” the delegates said.

Castro said the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives intends to file a house resolution for an investigation into the validity of martial law imposition and the possible humanitarian abuses in Mindanao when regular Congress sessions resume on June 24. # (Eunice Lei Wu of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured image courtesy of Gabby Endona and Gabe Sante of UP-CMC )

Groups commemorate Independence Day with calls for respect of human rights

Sectoral groups gathered at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila yesterday to commemorate the Philippines’ 119th Independence Day and to call for peace and respect for human rights.

The National Day of Prayer and Action for Peace and Human Rights event was part of the day-long action denouncing the killings and other human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The groups called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, saying it will only worsen extrajudicial killings and the curtailment of civil and political rights.

Military rule is not a solution to the ongoing conflict against the Maute group in Mindanao, the groups said.

The protesters also condemned ongoing aerial bombings by the Philippine military in Marawi they said only result in wanton destruction of properties and endangerment of civilians trapped in the besieged city.

In a unity statement, the groups called for the continuation of the peace talks between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

(Text and photos by Reynald Denver del Rosario, Luigi Renzo Naval and Eunice Lei Wu of the UP-CMC for Kodao Productions)