“What we want is to secure justice for our slain barangay captain and to ensure that our families and everyone else are protected from the paramilitary forces.” – Marlyn Gaguy, one of the women leaders of Kasilo
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Displaced indigenous Filipino families in Bukidnon led by Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo) and human rights defenders continue to stay put in the make-shift camp they established at the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol grounds in protest against the continuing militarization of their communities.
Among the 19 families holding the campout are that of assassinated local leader Jimmy Liguyon. He was the barangay chairman or village leader of Barangay Dao who was killed on March 5 by members of a paramilitary group after he adamantly refused to support their moves to take over indigenous land areas. Liguyon was also the vice chairman of Kasilo, which has opposed mining in the area.
The group that owned up to the killing – the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform (Nipar) has wrongly accused Liguyon of being a supporter of the New Peoples Army (NPA). His killer Salusad is identified with the San Fernando Matigsalug Tribal Datus (Sanmatrida), which has pending applications for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and mining operations in Dao.
After Liguyon was brutally killed inside his own house, the 19 families who belonged to his clan were forced to evacuate their community. They established the campsite at the capitol on March 14 and have been there since.
Liguyon’s widow, Sharon is scheduled to join other Internally displaced persons from Mindanao in bringing their case to Manila. They are set to make the rounds of national government offices and air their grievances against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Aquino administration.
According to reports, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have pledged their support to the campaign demanding justice for for Liguyon. The CHR and the NCIP have also said they will help ensure the safety and security of the 19 families.
In a report written by Walter I. Balane of MindaNews, it was said that on March 21, his daughter Jasmin gave birth to a baby boy inside the family tent in the capitol grounds. They named the boy “Justice Jimmy.” The baby was delivered with the help of a midwife.
Jasmin, 14, told Mindanews that she had mixed feelings about the birth of her son: happy that the child was born and sad that he arrived in the midst of chaos and discomfort. She was married at 13 in following with her tribe’s traditions.
According to Mindanews, before she gave birth Jasmin and her family sought the help of a member of the Civil Security Unit to bring her to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center (BPMC), but when no once came to help, Jasmin was forced to give birth in the camp.
Arrest the perpetrators
On April 11, Bukidnon vice governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr went to the camp site and tried to convince the families to leave and go to a relocation site. The families, however, refused and said that they are determined to stay until the local government authorities have taken action on their plight.
“We put up this camp to show our protest. We want the government to act on the problems we are facing,” Marlyn Gaguy, one of the women leaders of Kasilo, said in the local language.
The woman leader said they didn’t have a problem with how their houses look or if they are unable to settle down in a new community in the immediate future. ?
“What we want is to secure justice for our slain barangay captain and to ensure that our families and everyone else are protected from the paramilitary forces,” she said.
According to a report from Kasilo, the evacuees are wary against the local government’s assurances regarding the security of the subdivision where they are being forced to relocate. They said they had seen Joas Lekawan lurking in the camp’s periphery. Lekawan is one of the members of the paramilitary group led by Salusad when he killed Liguyon.
Gaguy said that if members of the NIPAR are free to roam the capitol grounds and monitor the activities of the evacuees, there was no stopping them from doing the same in the subdivision-relocation site.
In the meantime, tribal leaders in southern Bukidnon with links to the NCIP have reportedly been asked by the local government to negotiate with the evacuees. One of the board members of the the Federation of the Manobo-Matigsalug Tribal Councils,Lito Gawilan, reportedly proposed to the families that they be given a horse as a means to settle the problem.
One of the tribal leaders Datu Domingo expressed indignation over the offer.
“The life of barangay captain Jimmy cannot be paid for through a horse,” said Datu Domingo. “What he stood for was for our entire heritage, defending it for the next generations. The most important condition that must first be met before we negotiate is the arrest of Salusad and the dismantlement of NIPAR. So long as they remain free, the problems will never be settled.
Increasing number of rights violations linked to mining
In Quezon City, the human rights organization Karapatan raised the alarm over the series of forced evacuation of hundreds of peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao due to intense military operations in their ancestral lands.
The group said that in a span of one week, incidents of forced evacuation and many other human rights violations have been monitored in Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, in Compostela Valley and in Bukidnon. These provinces have been noted for their mineral-rich areas that are now being targeted for large-scale mining operations.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan spokesperson and convener of End Impunity Alliance said such military operations aggressively being carried out by troops and para-military personnel of the AFP were legitimized by Pres. Benigno Aquino III when he approved in October 2011 the creation and deployment of militias known as Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary Units (SCAA)
“Aquino does not only encourage the few big businesses in exploiting to the hilt the country’s mineral resources. He also gives the signal fire for the bombings, indiscriminate firing, killings, threats to life and livelihood and other rights violations in these peasant and indigenous communities. Such is Aquino’s brand of ‘development’ via his counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay.
Karapatan documented the following incidents which occurred between February to March 2012.
The evacuation of Lumad-Mamanwa people because of indiscriminate bombing, strafing and airstrikes in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte by the 402nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. On February 28, some 58 families from Alegria, Surigao del Norte evacuated to Bgy. Ombon. On March 14, 2012, some 78 Mamanwa families with about 345 individuals left their homes in Kitcharao and in Cabadbaran City and evacuated in Butuan City.
The mountains between Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur have large gold deposits. Among the mining companies operating in the area are Minimax Gold Exploration, SR Mining Inc., and the Lopez-family owned First Gen Hydro Electric Corp. which is currently conducting a survey in Agusan del Norte.
The evacuation of some 304 individuals from Bgy. Tibagon, Pantukan, Compostela Valley since March 18 because of the hamletting operations of the 71st IB. Other rights violations committed in the area that led to the evacuation were the occupation of civilian houses, interrogation of residents to force them to admit that they are NPA members.