Faced with the reign of terror by paramilitary and military, Lumad communities were forced to leave their homes – again.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Evacuees from Lumad and peasant communities continue to pour in to Tandag City, the provincial capital of Surigao del Sur, following the killings by rampaging paramilitary groups and the massive military operations in their hinterland villages.
In the factsheet released by Karapatan-Caraga, at least 362 Lumad families, or 1,804 individuals have fled to at the Provincial Capitol Sports Complex, as of Sept. 2.
The “bakwets” (evacuees) came from 10 communities of Diatagon village in Lianga town, five communities of Buhisan village in San Agustin town, and from one community in Caras-an village, Tago town.
Among the evacuees are 27 teachers and staff of the tribal high school Alternative Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), and seven primary schools of the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (Trifpss), which are all based in the communities.
The bakwets are making do staying in the shaded bleachers in the open arena.
The biggest group of evacuees, those from Diatagon, began hiking from the subvillage of Han-ayan at 9 a.m. on Sept. 1, a few hours after the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani Force killed two Manobo leaders, Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca, the executive director of Alcadev.
The Han-ayan evacuees were joined by other Lumad families from Buhisan village in San Agustin, who heard the gunshots fired by Magahat men. The first batch of bakwets arrived in Tandag City on Sept. 1, at 8 p.m., followed by another batch in the afternoon of Sept. 2.
Two hundred residents from Caras-an village, in Lianga’s neighbouring town, Tago, also evacuated to the sports arena on Sept. 2.
Running away from death and destruction
Rather than suffer more from the reign of terror by paramilitary men and soldiers, the Lumads were forced to leave their homes in the hinterland villages.
The Magahat-Bagani group left a trail of death and destruction. Karapatan-Caraga said the paramilitary group forced the residents of Kilometer 16 out of their homes and gathered them together at dawn of Sept. 1. In front of the community, the paramilitary men shot Campos and Sinzo dead, and fired indiscriminately at the people.
Before they left, the Magahat men shouted, “Ayaw paglihok! (Don’t move!),” as the people lay prone on the ground, shocked. The residents waited for 20 minutes after the Magahat had gone before they stood up and prepared for evacuation.
Samarca was found dead on the second floor of the Alcadev school building. “His throat was slit open, he was stabbed in the chest, his face bruised and almost unrecognizable, his neck, arms and feet tied with rope,” said the Karapatan factsheet.
The Magahat men also set fire to the new building of the Trifpss Han-ayan Tribal School, and the residents rushed to put out the fire.
“Gasoline sold in the coop was used to burn the store and the school. The sparkplugs of motorcycles were removed,” said the Karapatan factsheet.
By that time, the Mapasu cooperative, which the Magahat men set ablaze the night before, had been reduced to ashes.
San Miguel bakwets
In San Miguel town, most of the 332 evacuees had returned home on Aug. 30 and 31, said Karapatan-Caraga. Residents of Siagao village left their homes on Aug. 28, after the killing of brothers Crisanto and Ely Tabugol by paramilitary men led by Hasmin Acevedo.
Some 70 families who had left Bolhoon village on Aug. 9 still refused to return home for fear of the presence of soldiers and paramilitary. Today, Sept. 3, the remaining San Miguel evacuees also headed to join the others in Tandag city, after reports that the paramilitary group led by Acevedo were going to the evacuation center at the San Miguel municipal gym
The towns of Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel and Marihatag are contiguous municipalities covering Andap Valley, which had been subjected to intense operations by government troops, backed by paramilitary groups in past years.