Military’s Oplan Bantay Laya Sows Terror, Disunity Among Lumads in Mindanao

Orong Namansusay, 19, of Esperanza, was fortunate to have survived after being abducted and stabbed by soldiers. He was working in the field at around 3 p.m. on May 13, 2009, when some 20 armed men in uniform seized him along with two others. In an interview, he told Bulatlat that they were brought to an unspecified secluded area where he was tied to a tree and accused of being a member of the NPA. They threatened him with daggers and hit him repeatedly in the back with the butt of M-16 rifles, but he did not budge. He was subsequently stabbed three times, and he pretended to be dead hoping that the soldiers would stop stabbing him.

The soldiers, thinking he was dead, stopped stabbing him, covered him with banana leaves and left him on the ground. When Namansusay was sure that they had gone, he struggled to stand up even though he felt very weak and his intestines were sticking out. He walked to his home in Barangay Agsabo. His uncle and several of their neighbors applied what they knew of First Aid on him. The next morning he was brought to the hospital in Butuan City, which is some four hours away.

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo speaks during the mission. (Photo by Alexander Martin Remollino /

Neneng Gayao of Sitio (sub-village) Nalumosan, Barangay Silae in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, was “lucky” enough not to have been physically harmed. But her experience, also in the hands of soldiers, is no less traumatic. Over the second week of August this year, she was called several times by soldiers to a fellow villager’s house. At first she was asked whether she was part of the “movement,” to which she replied in the negative. Then the soldiers insisted that she tell them what she knew of the “movement,” though she knew nothing of it. At one point they accused her of being an organizer of a rebel women’s group, though, she said, she didn’t know what an organizer is.

When the soldiers could not make her “confess” to being a member of a rebel women’s group, they told her to admit that she has a brother who is with the NPA. At first she refused, but because they threatened her that worse things would befall her if she didn’t admit it, she did “admit” it even if, she said, it was not true. This brother is already dead.

Gayao thought they would allow her to go home at that point. But the next thing they told her to do was to admit she had other siblings who were NPA members. They would not let her be and, eventually, she admitted she had a sister in the NPA and that she is an organizer of a rebel women’s group. At the end of the week, she was taken with four neighbors to the village hall where they were presented to the public as “NPA surrenderees.”

The cases of Datu Mampaagi, Orong, and Neneng were highlighted in a fact-finding mission spearheaded by the Northern Mindanao-based human rights group Panaw Kalinaw (Exodus for Peace) and held last Nov. 29-Dec. 1. Part of the mission’s findings were presented at an International Peace and Human Rights Summit held Dec. 2 in Cagayan de Oro City.

The mission found, among other things, that from January to mid-November this year, there had been 13 extrajudicial killings of indigenous persons in Northern Mindanao. Two more were killed a few days before the mission.

Before that, there had been 15 killings of indigenous persons, all throughout the country, from 2001 to 2008.

The mission also found that over a thousand people from indigenous communities in Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur have suffered from food blockades, hamletting, and forcible evacuations. Those who were displaced did not find sanctuary in evacuation centers, as even there, they were harassed several times by soldiers.

Four of the victims of extrajudicial killings in the region – Datu Mampaagi Belayong, Francisco Emnace, Aladino “Datu Mansubaybay” Badbaran, and Alvin Binungkasan – were leaders of indigenous peoples’ organizations who, according to Panaw Kalinaw, “were attacked because of their commitment to the defense of their lands and ancestral domains against the entry of foreign mining companies and plantations that would only bring destruction to the environment and their communities.”

Protecting Mining Companies and other Foreign Investments

Bukidnon is covered by 63 approved mining applications, with the Australian-British BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, now conducting exploration in Malitbog.

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