“We are disgusted at the lengths that the military would go to impede us from seeking and asserting our rights.”
By DEE AYROSO
An indigenous peoples’ alliance condemned what they called “harassment” by the military against seven indigenous leaders who negotiated for the military pull-out in the communities and successful return home of Banwaon evacuees in Agusan del Sur.
The Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) in a statement March 26 said that a member of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) filed a petition for a writ of amparo and habeas corpus against Jomorito Goaynon, chair of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad organization of Northern Mindanao, and Tina Julieta Tawide, media officer of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (Kasalo).
Also charged were indigenous activists Meliza Amado Cuartero, Ejoy Precioso, Saguitan Tugay, Julieto Tawide Gomez, and Reneboy Helarion Cuartero.
The petition was filed by Teddy Tumbaga Ostos, a Cafgu member and resident of Mahayhay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
Goaynon and Tawide are both council members of Katribu.
Katribu said that Ostos claimed in his petition that the seven indigenous leaders convinced the community of Banwaons to evacuate, and were now detaining his son and his family.
“This petition for habeas corpus and a writ of amparo is an act of harassment,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, Katribu spokesperson.
“We are certain that the military, the reason why the Lumad people in San Luis, Agusan del Sur decided to evacuate their homes, are behind this ludicrous charge. We are disgusted at the lengths that the military would go to impede us from seeking and asserting our rights,” she said.
On March 21, 969 Banwaons returned home after two months in evacuation in Balit village, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
“The evacuation was a community decision, and in fact, an act of defiance against militarization and human rights violation being committed against them by the 26th IB,” Malayao added.
The petition also implicated the local indigenous people organization Tagdumahan, an affiliate of Katribu, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
Katribu said that a total of 169 indigenous peoples’ leaders had been slapped with trumped-up charges, illegally arrested and detained under the Aquino administration.
“An investigation must be done if Ostos was under duress or threatened to concede into filing this petition. The accused are well-known and respected community leaders. These people have stood undaunted on the side of the lumads even in the face of harassments and threat to their very lives,” Malayao said.