Military Refuses to Leave 15 Lumad Communities in Surigao del Sur

The 11-hour dialogue between the Lumad leaders of MAPASU (Malahutayong Pakigbigsog Alang sa Sumusunod), Church, military officers and the office of the Governor ended in a deadlock when the military led by 401st Infantry Brigade commander Col. Danilo Fabian and 58th IB commander Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez refused to pull out their troops from the 15 communities of Bgy. Diatagon, Tago and San Agustin in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The dialogue was held at the Provincial Capitol yesterday, August 3, to reiterate the demands of the mostly Manobo Lumads for the military to leave their communities, stop the implementation of food blockade and the recruitment of Lumads into the Bagani force, a paramilitary group organized by the 58th IB in the mold of LUPAKA in the 90’s which pitted Lumads against Lumads.

Col. Fabian instead offered monetary reward in the form of livelihood projects for those who would want to surrender and turn in their firearms. At one point in the dialogue, Fabian admitted that they are in the communities “to wipe out front 19 of the NPA.”

Exhausted with the military’s talks about the NPA instead of addressing the issues on hand, one MAPASU leader said, “parang usapan naman ito ng CPP-NPA-NDF at GRP (They talk as if this is a negotiations between the CPP-NPA-NDF and GRP).”

An earlier negotiation on July 31 ended with an agreement on the same issues but MAPASU leaders complained that the written deal did not reflect the sentiments of the Lumads who participated in the dialogue.

The MAPASU leaders who participated in yesterday’s dialogue were joined by some 500 evacuees who marched at 9am from the Diocesan Pastoral Center (DPC) to the Provincial capitol. The evacuees waited for nine hours at the capitol grounds but decided to go back to DPC at 6 pm, frustrated by the apparent failure of the dialogue to resolve the issue of military pullout from their communities. The DPC serves as evacuation center for the more than 1,700 individuals who left their homes, fields and crops when military troops occupied their communities.

Meanwhile the military contingent, in apparent show of force, was backed by three military jeeps full of soldiers, some in full battle gear and armed with M203 grenade launcher.

The Provincial government and the Diocese, which facilitated the dialogue, said that they will not be calling for another talk soon. Meanwhile, several children and elderly evacuees have fallen ill from being exposed to the elements, sleeping under improvised tents and the cold ground. The women evacuees, some of whom left their communities almost two months ago, expressed fears that more would be sick as the negotiations have bog down and they are still unable to return home. (

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