The Fugitive of Talaingod

But a month after the signing of the agreement, Alsons, using its heavy equipment, continued encroaching into the area claimed by the Salugpungan. The soldiers were also back.
(To learn more about human rights abuses linked to “forest management,” read the 1996 report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch titled “The Philippines: Human Rights and Forest Management in the 1990s.” In the report, the case of Talaingod and Alsons is cited prominently.)

Outraged, Datu Guibang sent word that the Salugpungan datus would soon start their pangayao but the Alsons guards only laughed at them, making fun of their traditional weapons.

This angered the datus. After their third warning went unheeded, they engaged Alsons’ guards in a battle near the border of their territory, using only their spears and arrows.

The encounter killed and wounded some of the Alsons’ guards. The IFMA was abruptly aborted and a warrant of arrest was issued against Datu Guibang and 25 Salugpungan leaders.

As a result, Datu Guibang retreated deep into the forests of Talaingod. But this did not stop the Salugpungan communities from looking up to him as their leader.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jose Libayao increasingly enjoyed the backing of the military.

The second encroachment

The IPRA allowed Lumads to secure their land through certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADT). The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the implementing arm of the IPRA that plays an important role in the official delineation of the Lumad lands, recognized Libayao’s group called Talakayan, or the Talaingod Langilan Enkaylawan Ata-Manobo Tribal Leaders Association.
But in 2001, the NPA assassinated Libayao, prompting his group to launch its own pangayao. This pangayao was supported by the 73rd Infantry Battalion, under Col. Eduardo del Rosario, who started recruiting Lumads into a paramilitary group called Alamara.
Sagip, a church- and academe-based group, documented the series of human-rights violations and harassments of civilians, especially in Datu Guibang’s barangay of Nasilaban, allegedly perpetrated by the Alamara.

The conflict reached a point when Salugpungan leaders brought the matter to the attention of Governor Rodolfo del Rosario, who called the NCIP legal counsel Jake Dumagan and Salugpungan leaders to a dialog. The meeting brought Dumagan to the territory of Salugpungan, where he eventually met up with Datu Guibang.

In a Salugpungan assembly in 2004, Dumagan told Datu Guibang that Salugpungan must sign the application for CADT, otherwise the tribe would lose by default to the Talakayan, which was already applying for it. Convinced, Datu Guibang printed his thumb mark on a document prepared by Dumagan.

Later, it came out that Dumagan had secured a special power of attorney for Datu Guibang’s son-in-law, Vic Balagasi, who signed the documents on behalf of Datu Guibang and the Salugpungan leaders without proper consultation and without the datu’s consent.
Sagip then learned in 2004 that the CADT application over 65,683 hectares of land covering areas in the municipalities of Kapalong, Sto. Tomas and Talaingod, was suspended due to “peace and order situation.”

Then, in late 2004, some members of Salugpungan were gathered in an assembly meant to get the consent of the community on a planned hydroelectric power plant within Salugpungan territory, in compliance with the IPRA provision on “free and prior informed consent.”
The plant would encroach into a sizable portion of the Salugpungan territory. The project also included diverting Kipaliku river (also known as Talomo river) traversing the Salugpungan land to connect to another river, Gabuyan, to come up with the needed current to generate power.
Most of the consultations made on this project were done by the NCIP with members of Talakayan, not Salugpungan.
Outraged, the Salugpungan, in 2005, joined a major consultation where their members read a position paper opposing the energy project. Although the project did not push through, the military conducted operations in Salugpungan territory the following months and made Nasilaban a base of their Reengineered Special Operations Team (RSOT).

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