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Datu Jemboy Mandagit: A Warrior Datu for peace

A special report by Raymund B. Villanueva

WARRIOR Datu Jemboy Mandagit was among the leaders of the 40,000-strong rally outside the House of Representatives summoned by President Rodrigo Duterte for an audience with him after his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Like tens of millions of Filipinos, the young Warrior Datu thought change would finally come or, at least, the Lumad killings would stop.  It was after all a campaign promise fellow Mindanaoan Duterte uttered several times in the past months.

Along with 3,000 fellow Lumads and peasants from all over Mindanao, Datu Jemboy went to Manila hoping to witness peace dawning in the Lumad’s ancestral domains.  He remembers the exact moment in the SONA when Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army, the revolutionary group Mandagit was falsely accused of being a member.  It was totally unexpected then that yet another nightmare would visit Datu Jemboy’s community shortly after, one that would again send his own people scampering for safety.

Five days after the President’s SONA, Datu Jemboy’s community was attacked. A pregnant woman and the child in her womb was killed while seven others were injured.

Just a day after the indigenous leader of a very remote community met Duterte within the enclave of the country’s political elite, Alde “Butsoy” Salusad, leader of the so-called New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR), had been circling Datu Jemboy’s territory.  He spent three days at nearby Sitio Spring, looking for Datu Jemboy and issuing threats.

A traditional Tigwahanon Manobo wedding was being celebrated at Datu Jemboy’s community of Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Kawayan in San Fernando, Bukidnon that Saturday morning of July 30.  But the day started uneasy.

A tragic wedding

At dawn, Butsoy appeared on a hill near Sitio Tibugawan and accosted residents Jason Pangantagan, 35 years old; Okking Sidon, 20; and his own relative Jaime Salusad, 40.  He ordered the three tied up and barked a forbidding threat: “If I do not kill Jemboy or I do not kill anyone in Tibugawan today, it would have to be you three.”

Butsoy then approached the community, accompanied by 12 members of the Civilian Auxilliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under the 68th Infantry Battallions of the Philippine Army, among them a certain Ronald Cabantao.  They were wearing jungle fatigues and was armed to the teeth.

Before they could enter the community, they came across Barangay Kawayan Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Arnold Manhura who begged him not to proceed to Sitio Tibugawan and let the wedding celebration be.  Butsoy told him he and his band won’t be long.  They would only be in the sitio for 10 short minutes, he said.  The IPMR, frightened by the menacing men and guns before him, assented.

Then shots rang out at nine o’clock that morning.

Makinit Gayoran, six months pregnant and carrying her nine-month old baby, was killed when a bullet pierced her torso.  Seven others were wounded, five of whom were minors and students of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region Literacy and Numeracy School. Two other community members, Kambo Bangonan and Boras Sedong, were also wounded in the incident.  A 60-year old indigenous leader was the eighth victim, Datu Daparapa, who was hit on his right toe.

Witnesses saw Butsoy was among those who peppered the house where the celebration was being held with submachine gun fire for 10 minutes from 50 meters away. Eighty families of Sitio Tibugawan and nearby communities fled and are now encamped at the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol grounds in Malaybalay City.

Duterte’s short-lived ceasefire order was in effect when Butsoy and the government forces killed Gayoran and her child and injured seven others.

It was only 11 days after the incident that Datu Jemboy was able to go back to Bukidnon.  He first saw his wife Pedela and their infant son again at the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital, the boy having gotten sick at the encampment.

Warrior Datu for peace

Datu Jemboy is but 25 years old.  He took on life at a young age, customary among the Tigwahanon Manobos.

He entered into an arranged marriage with his wife Pedela when he was 10 years old and she, nine years old.  They have five sons, the eldest now 11 and the youngest still an infant.

As soon as he could trek the treacherous paths to other communities, his paternal grandfather Ramun Mandagit took him along to teach him the ways of a Warrior Datu.  The elder Mandagit has annointed him as his successor, a mantle he took in 2005 when Datu Ramun died.

Ako ang tanging pinili ng 11 na Tribal Datus ng aming lugar, kasi iyon ang gusto ni Datu Ramun.  Ako lang ang sinanay niya na susunod na Warrior Datu,” Datu Jemboy said (I was unanimously elected by the 11 Community Datus of our territory, because it was the wish of Datu Ramun.  I was the only one he trained to be his successor.)

He now leads  11 communities that straddle Bukidnon and Davao City under the indigenous organization KASILO (Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan, a Lumad organization in Bukidnon) with around 4,000 individual members.

A Warrior Datu must be brave, Datu Jemboy said.  He must be willing to scale mountains and ford rivers even at night to settle disputes as soon as possible.  He must be able to gather the community Datus regularly and unite them in major decisions.

“Maraming problema ang inaayos ng Warrior Datu.  May patayan, agawan ng asawa, agawan ng lupa,” Datu Jemboy said.  (There are many problems that need a Datu Warrior’s attention.  These range from killings, wife-snatching, landgrabbing.)  Datu Jemboy succeeds in placating the agrieved parties with traditional preferred defrayals such as horses and hunting rifles.  When an agreement is reached, he leads both parties and the communities in the panumpa (pledging) and tampuda (peace pact).  “Iyan, hindi na mababali,” Datu Jemboy said.  (The panumpa and tampuda are inviolable.)

There has not been a dispute that has escalated into a clan or tribal war among the 11 Tigwahanon Manobo communities of San Fernando and Davao in Datu Jemboy’s 11-year leadership.  Neither has he gone to war with other tribes.  He has made his Warrior Datu title a misnomer.

Datu of the mountains

But Tigwahanon Manobos—originally a riverine tribe but who have been driven up the mountains over the years—have not been been left in peace by outsiders for a long time now.  Their peace is often shattered by incursions of logging and mining companies as well as the militarization that invariably accompanies them.

Two mining companies, San Christo Mineral Exploration Corporation and Apex Mining Company, Inc. had explored for gold in Datu Jemboy’s ancestral lands.  This, after outsiders learned that gold nuggets are often found in Tigwahanon Manobo’s streams and rivers.

Datu Jemboy’s community has consistently stood up against mining. Roger Plana, secretary general of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, said their opposition became even stronger after Butsoy killed then KASILO vice-chairperson Datu Jimmy Liguyon in March 2012.

Liguyon, a Matigsalug Manobo and Barangay Captain of Dao in San Fernando was killed in front of his house.  Butsoy, a relative of Liguyon, has repeatedly boasted it was him who killed the Datu and government official.

The Philippine government has been using Lumad to sow terror among fellow Lumad.  The Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government launched its Investment Defense Force with rebel-surrenderees and Lumad armed groups acting as private armies for mining, logging and plantation companies. This gave rise to the proliferation of paramilitary groups such as Alamara, Magahat-Bagani Force and Salusad’s NIPAR.  They also function as auxilliaries to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterinsurgency program euphemistically called the Oplan (Operation Plan) Bayanihan-Internal Security Plan.  In exchange for their mercenary activities, they are enticed with regular pay or small mining activities they themselves could operate.

In Salusad’s case, he is allowed to collect commissions from San Fernando’s gold mining and trade.  He is even called a “peacemaker” by government agencies, awarding him with a mantle of legality and respectability despite multiple criminal charges for murder.

But while Butsoy seems to have his way with the AFP and the Philippine National Police, he is vigorously opposed by other Lumads.

“Pinoprotekhan namin ang aming mga bundok at gubat dahil ito ang aming ospital at palengke.  Sa mga ito namin kinukuha ang aming mga gamot kapag kami ay nagkakasakit at dito rin namin kinukuha ang marami sa aming pagkain.  Wala namang ospital na malapit sa amin,” Datu Jemboy said.  (We protect our mountains and forests because these are our hospital and marketplace.  We gather our medicines from these when we get sick, and many of our food.  There are no hospitals near our communities.)

On their farmlands, the Tigwahanon Manobos plant upland rice, bananas and root crops like cassava and sweet potatoes.  They gather and process the fiber from wild abaca plants as one of their main cash products.  They are financially poor but they do not bother the government too much about their simple existence.  Mostly, they just want to be left alone.

Warrior Datu in the cities

Following intense militarization in their communities in July 2015 and Butsoy’s many threats against him, Datu Jemboy led his people in a forced evacuation to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines compound in Haran, Davao City.

In Davao City, Datu Jemboy became one of the main leaders and spokesperson of the various groups that have sought shelter at the evacuation center.  His leadership qualities shone when he took on the likes of North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco who led police-aided raids at the Haran sanctuary to force the Lumads back to their communities.

“Magaling magsalita si Datu Jemboy, hindi nahihiya.  Marunong siyang mag-Cebuanon at mag-Filipino.  Hindi rin siya natatakot sa psychological warfare ng militar at ni Butsoy,” Plana said of the Datu.  (Datu Jemboy is a good speaker and is not shy.  He knows Cebuano and Filipino.  He is not afraid of the threats and the psychological warfare against him by the military and Butsoy.)

Plana adds that the Lumad are often seen as timid by lowlanders.  But Datu Jemboy has transcended their usual shyness because he is defending his people and their ancestral domain.

“Kasi, kung wasak na ang bundok at wala nang mga puno, wasak na rin ang kultura naming mga katutubo.  Sa aming lupang ninuno namin pina-praktis ang aming kultura, politika at ekonomiya.  Hindi na kami pwedeng tawaging Lumad kung sa basurahan na kami nakatira,” Plana said. (If the mountains are destroyed and our forests are gone, our cultures are also destroyed.  We can only practice our cultural, political and economic traditions in our ancestral domains.  We cannot be called Lumads if we already live in garbage dumps.)

It was not only in Davao City that Datu Jemboy displayed his mettle.  He was among the Datus who led the cross-country Manilakbayan 2015 and 2016 that travelled from the hinterlands of Mindanao to Metro Manila, the political and economic center of the country.  On the streets of the seething capital, the Lumad forced millions of Filipinos to become aware of their struggles and their bravery.  Never will the Lumad’s defense of their ancestral lands be ignored again.

On December 20, 2015, Datu Jemboy led his people back to Sitio Tibugawan in the hope that they could go back to their lands in peace.  They cleared the farms and planted rice and corn.  Then El Niño withered their crops away until a State of Calamity had to be declared. Still, the Tigwahanon Manobos tried to rebuild and hoped to live in peace.

And then July 30 happened.

This time, Datu Jemboy said they will not go back to San Fernando while Butsoy remains free.  He still leads the resistance against accusations by Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri that their forced evacuation is fake.

“Sabi pa sa amin, bayaran na lang daw ng P150,000 yung pamilya ng namatay at P25,000 ang ibibigay naman sa mga nasugatan.  Hindi lamang pera ang kapalit ng aming buhay.  Kailangang hulihin ng mga pulis si Butsoy.  Nasa Sitio Kiranggol lang siya,” Datu Jemboy said.  (We were even told that they will just give P150,000 to the family of the killed victim and P25,000 for each of the injured.  Money cannot compensate for the lost lives of our tribes people. Butsoy must also be arrested.  He is just in Sitio Kiranggol.)

In April 2012, a local court issued a warrant of arrest against Butsoy for the murder of Liguyon but authorities have not arrested him.

The Tigwahanon Manobos’ Warrior Datu’s voice rings clear: “Ipapakita namin kay Governor Zubiri na hindi kami buang para mag-bakwit sa syudad ng walang dahilan. Lalaban kami sa kanila.  Hindi kami papayag na patayin nila kami sa gutom at walang kalaban-laban.” (We will show Governor Zubiri that we are not crazy to evacuate to the city without reason.  We will fight them.  We will not allow them to just kill us by hapless starvation without giving a fight.) #

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This special report was originally published by the MINDANAO INTERFAITH INSTITUTE FOR LUMAD STUDIES with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the RMP-NMR Inc and the “Healing the Hurt” Project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

MINDANAO INTERFAITH INSTITUTE FOR LUMAD STUDIES is part of the Healing the Hurt Project supported by the European Union.

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Human rights raps in the Philippines

Human Rights Day 2015 in the Philippines with street protests on violations under a neocolonial regime. Speakers include torture victim Fr. Ben Alforque and KARAPATAN secretary-general Tinay Palabay. The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) also demanded the release of Palestinian leader Khalida Jarrar and all political prisoners.

Kodao wins three awards at 3rd Gawad Agong

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Kodao Productions won two major awards and one special citation at the 3rd Gawad Agong Journalism Awards for excellence in reporting indigenous peoples issues held at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communications last October 29.

IMG_5971Kodao’s photo essay “The Banwaon children of Balit”( https://kodao.org/2015/03/16/the-banwaon-children-of-balit/ ) and its November 25, 2014 Tala-Akayan episode “Manilakbayan ng Mindanaoan, panawagan para sa katarungan” (https://kodao.org/2014/11/25/tala-akayan-kodaoveritas-indigenous-peoples/ ) were awarded first prizes in the photojournalism and radio categories, respectively.

The winning photo essay was written and photographed by Kodao’s director for radio Raymund Villanueva who also co-hosts Tala-Akayan, the twice-weekly radio show Kodao co-produces with the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) and airs over Radio Veritas 846-Am every Tuesdays and Thursdays.  PCPR’s Fr Delfo Canceran, OP co-hosts Tala-Akayan.

Villanueva, an Ibanag, was also cited for being a notable indigenous person media practitioner, along with Union of Catholic Asian News’ Jose Torres Jr, a Subanen.  Villanueva previously received three finalist certificates in both radio and online news categories in the first two staging of the awards.

This year’s winners included Bulatlat.com’s Dee Ayroso for her news report “Lumad women: ‘Our place is in the struggle’”, InterAksyon and News5’s Bernard Testa for his multi-media report “Disrupted Dreams:  Lumad children’s art portrays their hopes and fears”, GMA News TV’s Jay Sabale for his television report “Grupo ng mga Lumad sa Mindanao tuloy ang protesta laban sa gubyerno”, and GMA News TV’s Malou Mangahas for her documentary “What is the costs of building a sanitary landfill?”

IMG_5829Weekly newspaper Northern Dispatch and Radio Sagada were declared winners of the first Gawad Agong citation for media outfits established by and for indigenous peoples.

GMA Network’s Tina Panganiban Perez was also awarded a citation for her television report “Mga Mangyan sa Puerto Galera nanganganib mapaalis dahil sa itatayong landfill” while Kidapawan-based broadcaster Malou Candelina Manar was also cited for her radio programs on indigenous peoples.

The Gawad Agong Journalism Awards is an annual event that “… salute(s)… media workers in print, broadcast, and online who devoted their time, talent, and efforts in covering the real situations and issues of the indigenous peoples.”

Annually organized by Katribu National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples’ Organization in the Philippines, Gawad Agong is under the Indigenous Voices in Asia Project in the Philippines (IVA-Philippines), and is supported by the Swedish Initiative for Development Aid (SIDA) and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

Participants of the Lumad Manilakbayan 2015 handed out the awards to the winners. #

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Support for Manilakbayan 2015

Days before the arrival of Manilakbayan 2015 in Manila, church people express their solidarity and support to stop state terror attacks on Lumad schools, communities and people. Among the speakers are: Sr. Stella Matutina, spokesperson of Panalipdan Mindanao; Fr. Fortunato Estillore of the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Sr. Mary James Mujar, Superior of the Order of St. Benedictine, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur; Rev. Fr. Jerome Secillano, Public Affairs Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

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STREETWISE: AFP lies won’t bring peace to the lumad by Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Streetwise

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its most rabid apologists are trying desperately to stem the tide of public outrage here and abroad over the series of killings of unarmed lumad leaders, their supporters and ordinary community members attributed to paramilitary groups created, funded, directed and protected by the AFP.  They are resorting to squid tactics, red-baiting and victim blaming which only further entrap them in their own web of lies.

During the Senate investigation into the Lianga, Surigao del Sur massacre last week, Senator Teofisto Guingona III underscored the fact that more than a month since the incident, the alleged perpetrators roam free.  There are even reports that they continue to terrorize other lumad communities.  As of this writing another lumad leader has been killed in Agusan del Sur.

Testimonies from the provincial governor, religious leaders and representatives of the 3000 lumad who have sought sanctuary in Tandag City, are one in pointing to a paramilitary group, the Magahat-Bagani, composed of AFP recruits from among lumad communities, as the perpetrators.  More telling, they accuse the AFP of coddling the killers and are calling for the dismantling of these groups.

At first, the AFP tried to sell the idea that the New People’s Army (NPA) was responsible for the killings.  It brought several lumad to Manila and presented them in a hastily organized AFP press conference to say that the entire incident was part of a convoluted scheme by the NPA to demonize the military as human rights violators.  The AFP insists that the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood (ALCADEV) is an “NPA school” and the lumad community it serves supports the NPA.  The AFP insinuates this is probably why the Magahat-Bagani, whose members are anti-NPA, attacked them.

The AFP claims the military unit that was within striking distance of the rampaging paramilitary group did not intervene because they were trying to “protect” the people by avoiding civilian casualties who may be caught in the cross fire. The AFP complains that it is now being unfairly accused of being behind the killings simply because the affected lumad and their supporters are actually pro-NPA.  Nonetheless, the AFP’s proffered explanation — that the NPA killed its own supporters to make the AFP look bad – is just too absurd to be believed by anybody with a grain of independence and an ounce of grey matter.

Consequently the AFP tried to distance itself from the Magahat-Bagani with another incredible line, that these armed groups are “independently organized” and are composed of “traditional” lumad warriors defending their territory from the intrusion of the NPA.  The AFP says these are not under its direction and control.  Accordingly, since these groups are fighting against lumad who have joined the NPA or support the NPA, the AFP posits some kind of “tribal war” going on. The recent killings are alleged to be a consequence of this internal conflict among the lumad but the AFP denies it has anything to do with this so-called tribal war.  Indeed, what the AFP tries to cover up are the origins of these paramilitary groups and how they grew and gained the capacity to terrorize entire lumad communities with impunity.

Their rise can be traced to attempts by big business concerns to exploit the untapped mining, logging and agribusiness potential of lumad areas.  The Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, that was supposed to protect the indigenous people from being displaced from their ancestral domain by facilitating the grant of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs), paved the way for some lumad leaders to treat the ancestral domain as their private property for disposition as they please.  These lumad leaders were bribed by the corporations to agree to open lumad lands for exploitation.

However other leaders resisted, realizing that the promised “development” would destroy the forests, the rivers, the land and the lumad way of life.  The ensuing conflict turned very violent as those who favored the entry of the corporations were backed by these corporations and were armed by the military.  Those who opposed became the targets of harassment, forced agreement and outright murder.  Some of them took up arms and eventually joined the NPA operating in their areas. The people welcomed the NPA’s presence to defend them from the AFP, the security forces of the corporations and the paramilitary lumad groups that were given arms, funding and protection by the AFP.

At the root of the conflict is the lumad’s defense of their ancestral domain from wanton exploitation.  It is also entwined with their assertion of their right to determine the kind of development that will genuinely uplift their socio-economic situation even as their traditions and culture are respected and nurtured.  It is thus understandable that the ranks of the NPA in Mindanao include lumad. The mountainous areas where the lumad have been forced to retreat by the encroachment of lowlanders are also the areas where the NPA are strongest.

The government says the NPA is already a “spent force”. So how does the NPA survive and – in some areas, according even to the AFP, expand their influence – if they are not being supported voluntarily by the people, like the lumad of Mindanao?  If the NPA has sufficient mass support to be able to sustain what has been dubbed as “the longest running communist insurgency in the world” how can the military defeat it without resorting to a bloody, brutal, no-holds-barred war against these supporters, including the lumad?

Some peace advocates suggest that the solution to the violence is to withdraw the AFP, paramilitary and NPA from the lumad areas and declare these as zones of peace.  At first glance, this sounds logical and fair. But a closer look will show it won’t work because it does not address the real issues and consequently draws away from the real solution. One only has to ask in the first instance — will the mining corporations then be free to operate in these areas and do as they wish or will?  Will they be allowed to have their own security guards? If so, would these be non-lumad but armed? Or lumad but unarmed? Will the lumad benefit from this more than the corporations? And finally, what mechanism, action or process could make the AFP and NPA both agree to withdraw from any area, or even to stop firing their weapons at each other? Certainly, not mere calls, appeals or exhortations.

In the final analysis, the peaceful resolution of armed conflict in lumad and non-lumad areas in Mindanao and the rest of the country can only be brought about by the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (the umbrella formation for the CPP-NPA and other revolutionary forces waging an armed struggle).

Such peace talks must address the root causes of armed conflict and must proceed on the basis of the previous bilateral agreements, without preconditions.  Meanwhile, mitigation of the most grievous effects of the armed conflict can already be addressed by implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International humanitarian law (CARHRIHL) through the operationalization of the Joint GPH-NDFP Monitoring Committee.  The latter receives and investigates complaints lodged by victims and either Party to the agreement.

Peace advocates of whatever ideological and political persuasion should seize the issue of lumad killings as an opening to even more determinedly push for peace talks to resume and go forward to negotiations over socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and finally, the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

True peace must be based on justice and not be the peace of the graveyard. #

Published in Business World
5 October 2015

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Manila activists condemn latest Lumad killings

Data from Karapatan-CARAGA
September 1, 2015

MAGAHAT/BAGANI FORCES KILL THREE LEADERS ANEW
IN LIANGA, SURIGAO DEL SUR

September 1, 2015 at around 4 am in Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur – Known elements of the Magahat-Bagani Forces opened fire at Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo as community members were roused from bed and forced to gather in the middle of the community early this morning. At around the same time, the dead body of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development(ALCADEV), was found in one of the schoolrooms, tied around the neck and extremities and with stab wounds.

Previously, on August 30, after the two-day celebration of ALCADEV’s Foundation Day, about 30 elements of the 36th IBPA and Special Forces with members of the Magahat-Bagani Force occupied the school’s function hall and the school grounds. The Magahat threatened to massacre the community should they refuse to evacuate within two days.

On August 31, the cooperative store of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) was burned by the Magahat who also indiscriminately fire their guns that terrorized the community. Residents of Han-ayan, the school staff and some other guests then decided to retreat to nearby Km. 16. As they were preparing to leave that afternoon, Samarca was detained at the ALCADEV grounds by some members of the Magahat. This was the last time he was seen alive.

All cellphones and cameras of the residents, faculty and staff were seized by the Magahat before pulling out of Km. 16 after the killing. Soldiers of the 36th IBPA and the SF, who stayed in Km.9, are conducting their usual patrols took no action on the killings.

“This is a clear indication of collusion between the AFP and the armed Magahat-Bagani Forces,” Eliza Pangilinan, Karapatan Caraga secretary general, said. “Despite the obvious presence of the military who are purportedly there for internal security, these killings continue to happen with impunity.”

The Magahat-Bagani Forces led by Marcos Bocales, who were also implicated in the killing of Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit in October 24, 2014, are also identified as the perpetrators of the latest massacre.

“We call on the law enforcement agencies and the local prosecutors to seriously investigate the increasing spate of killings that are perpetrated by these groups. Instead of filing charges against activists left and right they should look at the apparent connection between the military and these armed paramilitary groups, file charges and arrest them and bring a stop to impunity. This is the only way that communities can truly feel secure. ”, Panganiban said.#

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Balit Mission 2015: Mga Bakwit sa Lupang Ninuno

Displacement, Human Rights Violations in Balit, San Luis,
Agusan del Sur

On January 23 of this year, 174 Banwaon families (composed of around 1,000 individuals, approximately 80% of whom are women and children) from the communities of Kimambukagyang, Tabon-tabon, Tabanganan, Nakadayas, Pig-ulingan, Mimpalaos, Maputi, Kandiisan, Tambo and KM 48 went on a massive exodus to the village center of Balit in the municipality of San Luis, Agusan del Sur. They were running from forced development.

The communities were at odds with Mario Napungahan, a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), who wanted to include their lands under his Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The communities had been resistant to a unified CADT given that Napungahan was encouraging the entry of mining companies into the ancestral lands of the Banwaons. Napungahan, who leads a private armed group himself, joins with the Philippine military in the pretext of counter-insurgency operations, threatening and killing the leaders of the communities resisting mining and other environmentally-detrimental ‘development’ projects.

In November 30 of 2014, members of the 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army camped at the barangay hall of Balit, conducting Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD). They were recruiting community members to join the CAFGU or the barangay-based Peace and Development Volunteers.

Learning from the experience of the neighboring CADT under Benhur Mansulonay where the chieftains who refused to sign the Free Prior and Informed Consent to allow a mining company were threatened with military force, the Balit community countered the military with streamers saying they wanted the military to leave. This aggravated the accusations against the community as supporters of the communist armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA).

On December 22, the village captain of Balit, Necasio Precioso Sr., was shot dead. Previously, he had argued with MSgt. Andres Villaganas, who accused Precioso’s family of being supporters of the NPA. The two clashed during a meeting where the military had demanded the appearance of two other community members whose sons they accused of being members of the NPA. Precioso, being the village leader, had accompanied them.

The start of 2015 witnessed an intensified COPD of the military. Fearing for their safety – from the direct harassment of the military and the possibility of getting caught in a cross-fire should there be an encounter between the military and the NPA – the communities demanded that the military pull out from their village centers. According to protocols, the military should be camping far from civilian houses and establishments. However, this was not followed.

The families decided to come together, believing they would be more secure if they would stay together. However, already one was reported missing and three children have died of sickness because of the drastic condition at their evacuation area. After leaving, some of the houses they left have been burned, their meager possessions divested by the private armies under Napungahan. At least 50 individuals have fallen sick because of their living conditions. But to them, it was still better than being out alone, scared that a bullet would strike them any time.

(More stories and images at www.rmp-nmr.org)

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KMP: Cha-cha is only for the benefit of hacienderos not for Filipino people

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas held a 3 day vigil in front of the House of Representativesa from June 8 to June 10, to condemn the so-called economic Charter Change. They said that the economic Cha-cha was being pushed by the Aquino administration-controlled Congress is only for the benefit of the hacienderos like President Aquino whose family still controls the sprawling Hacienda Luisita sugar estate in Tarlac.

The KMP also said that “economic Charter Change will intensify land-grabbing in the countryside and worsen the export-oriented and import dependent orientation of the economy. Local production that is dependent on imported inputs will be directed to serving the needs of globalization.”

House of Representatives, Quezon City
June 9-10, 2015

LARAWAN: KMP: Aquino walang silbi sa mamamayan, palayasin sa Malacañang

Nanawagan ang mga magsasaka, mga tsuper at maralitang taga-lunsod sa harap ng Malacañang kaninang umaga na paalisin na sa pwesto si pangulong Noynoy Aquino. Hindi lamang anila dahil sa kanyang malaking kasalanan sa insidente sa Mamasapano kung hindi dahil sa kabiguan ng pamahalaan nito na mabigyan ng sapat na hanapbuhay, tamang sweldo at lupa ang masang anakpawis.

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Mendiola, Manila
March 24, 2015