As foreign mining investments continue to encroach into Lumad lands in Northern Mindanao, the military, through its Oplan Bantay Laya, intensifies its campaign to stifle local opposition to these companies. A fact-finding mission found that so far this year, 13 Lumads have been summarily executed while more were tortured and harassed by soldiers and fellow Lumads co-opted by the military.
By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
ESPERANZA, Agusan del Sur — Datu Mampaagi Belayong thought the evening of Sept. 2, 2009, was just going to be another ordinary evening. It was around 7 p.m., and he was with his wife Bae Adelfa at their daughter’s house in Kinamaybay, a village in this town, where the couple had been residing since their original home was fired upon by soldiers a few months back. They were waiting to have dinner.
That dinner never came. In a matter of minutes, shots rang out, and the next thing they knew, Datu Mampaagi had fallen, wounded several times in the neck, but still breathing. He drew his last breath later that night. But not before being able to identify his assailant.
“As I tried to talk to him while he lay wounded, he told me he was able to look behind him and see who had shot him, and it was Datu Manlap-angan Bato,” Bae Adelfa told Bulatlat in an interview. With Datu Manlap-angan was another unidentified man.
Some of the Lumads during the solidarity mission in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. (Photo by Alexander Martin Remollino / bulatlat.com)
Lumad musicians performing during the mission. (Photo by Alexander Martin Remollino / bulatlat.com)
Datu Manlap-angan, also of the Higaonon tribe, is well-known in their community as a leader of the paramilitary Task Force Gantangan and the Bungkatol Liberation Front (Bulif), according to Bae Adelfa.
Task Force Gantangan and Bulif are two paramilitary groups that are being mobilized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Northern Mindanao. They attack indigenous peoples’ communities, particularly in the provinces of Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur. Other paramilitary groups are the Wild Dogs and Mabantag.
Sometime before he was slain, Datu Mampaagi had been approached by soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Andy Centeno, and ordered him to tell 24 of his constituents to surrender because, the soldiers said, they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA). He refused to follow their order but left the decision to the 24 men; 14 of them eventually surrendered.
Datu Mampaagi, founding chairman of the indigenous people’s group Linundigan, was active in campaigns against the intrusion of mining and agribusiness corporations into his tribe’s ancestral land.