Whether under Arroyo or Aquino, same counterinsurgency tactic pits Lumád against Lumád

(Photo by D.Ayroso/Bulatlat.com)
(Photo by D.Ayroso/Bulatlat.com)

Bulatlat.com compiles its articles on Lumad paramilitary groups in Mindanao, which show a worsening trend from the Arroyo regime to the current Aquino administration.


The recruitment of tribal paramilitary groups to divide indigenous communities is a state tactic that has been employed, with worsening results, from Martial law, thru the first Aquino administration, and onwards up to the present.

During the time of President Gloria Arroyo, government began to aggressively push for the opening of Lumad lands to mining, logging and agribusiness, and in the process, committed human rights violations, such as forced evacuation, military encampment in communities, and forced recruitment of Lumads into paramilitary groups.

Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya reinforced the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s (AFP) organizing and arming of Lumad paramilitary groups. Soldiers forcibly recruited indigenous peoples into Cafgus, and later, into paramilitary groups, led by tribal chieftains or datu, who are the ones who aggressively endorse the entry of mining and other extractive projects into the ancestral lands.

Most prominent among these groups were Alamara in Southern Mindanao region and Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force (TFG-BF) in Caraga region.

Under Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, some of these Lumad paramilitary groups have changed names, but continue to operate, still with full support of the AFP. But under Aquino, they began to take on lead roles in combat and in death squad operations, and are suspected to be behind the assassination of Italian priest Fausto “Fr. Pops” Tentorio in 2011, and the killing of Manobo leader Henry Alameda in 2014.

In the Sept. 1 killing in Lianga, survivors said soldiers stood aside as the Magahat-Bagani shot dead Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo.

Since Bulatlat.com first came out in 2001, our staffwriters have written extensively about Lumád paramilitary groups in Mindanao, and how they have brought grief to their own kin and communities.

Here is a compilation of some of the human rights and indigenous people’s watch articles posted by Bulatlat.com through the years.


Alsa Lumad, Cafgus hold sway in Lumadland
They call their group “Alsa Lumad,” which the military likened to the anti-Communst armed group called Alsa Masa in the ‘80s. The military plans to duplicate Alsa Lumad in the Lumad villages of Bukidnon, North Cotabato and Davao del Norte.


The State’s strategy against Lumads
The first strategy involves dividing the Lumads to facilitate the entry of big-business interests into their territories. The second strategy is to discredit those who would oppose this policy of dispossession.

Media and “Ethnic conflicts” | Reporting without understanding
Because the military is the most visible player in this policy of aggression and dispossession, it is inevitable that news or stories about it are gathered and processed by journalists in the defense beat. And here’s the rub: most defense reporters in any city in the country tend to make military camps as their bases of operations.

Davao barrio wedding ends in massacre
April 15 was supposed to have been a day of festivity in a community called Pangyan, in Tamugan village, a hinterland part of Marilog district in Davao city. On that day, a Monday, an alleged New People’s Army cadre known as Ka (short for comrade) Pipoy was set to marry one Ka Mayang.


Terror in ancestral lands
Alamara is a Lumad term that roughly translates as “extensive and massive tribal war.” According to Pasaka, the paramilitary group is a “brainchild” of Col. Felipe Berroya, former commanding officer of the 701st Brigade PA that allegedly formed it and directly arms, finances, trains, and controls it.

AFP’s vigilantes force Lumads to live in fear
War-weary and hungry, Ata-Manobos in the hinterlands of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, are crying “enough” of terror as the vigilante group Alamara continues its attacks on communities, forcing evacuation and massive displacement among civilians.


Five years down the drain for indigenous people
An indigenous peoples group reports that in the past five years under President Gloria Arroyo, 70 of the 711 victims of extrajudicial killings were indigenous activists.

Alamara disbandment sought to end terror in Paquibato
The disbandment of paramilitary units and the withdrawal of the firearms issued to them by the Philippine Army are some of the recommendations put forward in a Davao City Council hearing that looked into the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the dreaded Alamara in Paquibato District.


Military refuses to leave 15 Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur
Exhausted with the military’s talks about the NPA instead of addressing the issues on hand, one MAPASU leader said, “They talk as if this is a negotiations between the CPP-NPA-NDF and GRP.”

Regime’s counterinsurgency campaign drives Mindanao Lumads homeless
As the 2010 deadline of the Philippine military to end Asia’s longest running communist insurgency nears, the evacuation of Lumads intensifies. –

Military threat remains as displaced Lumads return to defaced homes, damaged crops
The Manobos of Surigao del Sur may be back home for now, but they still face the threats of militarization – even as they also have to contend with the burden of rebuilding their ravaged homes, schools, and livelihoods.

Back in their homes, Manobos of Surigao face another threat
Barely a month after the Manobos went back to their homes in Lianga, the soldiers are back again, recruiting them to the Task Force Gantangan, a paramilitary group to fight the government’s war against the insurgents.

Oplan Bantay Laya sows terror, disunity among Lumads in Northern Mindanao
As foreign mining investments continue to encroach into Lumad lands in Northern Mindanao, the military, through its Oplan Bantay Laya, intensifies its campaign to stifle local opposition to these companies. A fact-finding mission found that so far this year, 13 Lumads have been summarily executed while more were tortured and harassed by soldiers and fellow Lumads co-opted by the military.


In Davao, military uses vigilante groups against NPA
The setting up of paramilitary forces with lumad-sounding names like Bagani force, the Alimaong tribal justice, Magahat and Alamara is part of the Task Force Gantangan, a component of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).

Peasant leader killed in Davao city, the 7th extrajudicial killing under the new administration
Naldo Labrador, 39, a member of Paquibato District Farmers’ Association (Padifa) and Farmers Association in Davao City- Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (FADC-KMP) was killed Sept. 3.


Italian priest who served indigenous peoples of Mindanao killed
Fr. Fausto Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), died of multiple gunshot wounds on October 17, as he was preparing to go to a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City. Initial reports reveal that the assailants entered the convent and shot him on the head and chest with three bullets, instantly killing him.


One tragedy after another, Bae Adelfa Belayong stands up again and again

Tribal leader tortured, killed
Genesis Ambason, 23 years old, a member of Banwaon tribe and the secretary general of Tagdumahan, the Lumad organization in San Luis, Agusan del Sur was just resting on their way to a nearby village when fired upon by soldiers. His body was later found bearing signs of torture.


Paramilitary group displaces Manobo tribe
Soldiers belonging to the 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, along with paramilitary group Bagani Forces, first conducted a military operation on Aug. 9 in Mintake-i in Lydia village. Both groups, according to RMP – NMR threatened residents that they would massacre the entire community.

2 Lumads killed, 2 missing in Caraga region


Soldiers forcing Lumad chieftains to join paramilitary group
“We denounce the arming of the Lumad people against their own kin, making them pawns against the government’s fight against insurgency,” said Katribu spokesperson Piya Macliing Malayao.


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