Three evacuees have died as Lumad communities blame the evacuation to relentless military operations “meant to pave the way for mining” in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur.
By DEE AYROSO
A pregnant woman and two children have died, as nearly 1,000 individuals from the Banwaon tribe have evacuated their homes in four villages in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur province. The evacuees fled from military operations, which they said were pushing “mining interests.”
According to human rights group Karapatan-Caraga, 18-year old Nayan Gallino, who had ectopic pregnancy, died at the evacuation site on Feb. 2, at 5 p.m., after she was discharged from a hospital. Two evacuee children from sitio Tabon-tabon have gotten sick and died: Jamson Tilocan, four years old, died on January 6 in sitio Tabanganan, while Miguel Man-anito, three years old, died of measles in sitio Kimambokagyang on January 8.
The evacuees are staying in an unfinished building in Balit village, San Luis. Karapatan-Caraga reported that many have been afflicted with illnesses.
Over 200 families from the sitios (sub-villages) in Mahagsay, Sta Rita, Binicalan and San Pedro villages left their homes from Dec. 31 last year until late January to evade military operations by paramilitary groups and the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion-4th Infantry Division under Lt. Col. Rolando Dumawa.
“Datus,” the traditional Lumad community leaders, have reported being harassed by Lumad paramilitary groups, who try to force them to accede to a consolidated Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (Cadt).
“The forcible evacuation is the effect of the army and paramilitary group’s coercion to allow the entry of mining corporations in the ancestral domain of the Banwaons,” said Datu Jomorito Goaynon, deputy secretary general of Kalumaran, an alliance of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
Goaynon said said that Tambuli Mining Company Inc. and Malampay Mining Inc. are planning to conduct an open-pit mining in the area for gold. He condemned the military harassment on the indigenous communities.
“Let the Banwaons decide for themselves without threats and intimidation. We call for the pull out of military troops in the area that led to forcible evacuation and human rights violations,” said Goaynon. “We also demand justice to the rights violations committed against our Banwaon brothers and sisters.”
Karapatan-Caraga documented human rights violations such as one case of extrajudicial killing, threat and harassment of 22 individuals, 10 civilians used as guides in military operations, seven forced to falsely surrender as rebels, 11 victims of indiscriminate firing, and three families who were victims of divestment and destruction of properties.
In a statement, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan (KAMP) said that the evacuation started from Mahagsay village on January 23, as residents left their homes –in the sub villages of Kimambukagyang, Tabon-tabon, Tabanganan, Nakadayas, Pig-ulingan, Mimpalaos, Maputi, Kandiisan, Tambo and Kilometer 48 — to go to Balit village proper. Families from Agduka sub-village followed on January 24.
Piya Macliing Malayao, KAMP spokeswoman, said that the terror started last year, with the killing of a village official, a KAMP leader who was vocally opposed to the entry of mining.
Balit village chair Necasio “Angis” Precioso Sr. was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men as he was walking with his son on December 22, 2014. He was was one of the founders of Tagdumahan, a member organization of KAMP.
Malayao said that the night before, the victim had an argument with MSgt. Andres Villaganas of the Philippine Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion. Malayao said the village chief demanded the military to pull out from the community, as encampment of military forces in civilian zones is a violation of international humanitarian law.
“The killing of Angis and the following terrorism by the military is devised to repress the indigenous peoples’ demand for their rights to land,” Malayao said.
Datu “Bagal” Mauro Mansilyohan, a chief community adviser of the Banwaons in Tabon-Tabon, Mahagsay village said that the paramilitary groups in the area wants them to give up their ancestral domain to them through a unified Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
Mansilyohan revealed that Mario Napungahan, a tribal chieftain who used to be with the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu), wants them to transfer to their community so that the ancestral domain of the Banwaons will be consolidated under his supervision and leadership.
Mansilyohan said that Napungahan is in favor of mining in the Banwaons’ ancestral lands, and the aim of the Cadt consolidation is to facilitate the entry of the companies.
Soldiers of the 26th IB had been in the area since last year purportedly for Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD).
Another Banwaon leader, Ricky Hogsalan, vice chairman of Tabon-Tabon, reported that 26th IB soldiers threatened him and other leaders on November 23, 2014. “The military personnel talked to us one-by-one, they questioned our refusal to go against the consolidated CADT for our ancestral domain,” he said.
Goaynon said “Lumad bandits” are being recruited and trained by the military as Investment Defense Forces. “We can clearly see the collusion of the military and the lumad bandits in the hinterlands to pave the way of foreign mining corporations that will surely destroy our environment,” Goaynon said.
Goaynon said that they had already seen the pattern of military operations and harassment by Lumad paramilitary in sitios Banwaon, Tambo and Kilometro 48 in Binicalan village, San Luis, where the Banwaons agreed with the consolidated CADT, which was supervised by Datu Benhur Mansuonay.
“After the approval of the consolidated CADT, the datus in Binicalan village are now under threat and harassment for refusing to sign the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) that grants the entry of mining corporations in the area,” Goaynon said.