Even before President Duterte withdrew the government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration on July 30, paramilitary groups attacked a Lumád community.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – A notorious group of paramilitary men in Bukidnon province opened fire on a wedding in a Lumád community on July 30 in San Fernando town, killing a pregnant woman, and injuring seven others, five of them children.
Killed was Makinit Gayoran, several months pregnant, who was hit in the chest and died on the spot, said an Urgent Alert by the Higala sa Lumád (Friends of the Lumád) Network. Among those wounded were three teenagers, and two boys aged seven and eight.
Gayoran was holding her first-born baby and was among some 80 Tigwahanon gathered around a house in sitio (subvillage) Tibugawan, Kawayan village, when they were fired upon by a dozen members of the paramilitary group, New Indigenous Peoples Army for Reform (Nipar) led by Alde “Butsoy” Salusad, who were positioned on top of a hill overlooking the community.
The Urgent Alert said that before the attack, indigenous peoples mandatory representative Arnold Manhura came across Salusad and his group in sitio Spring, and pleaded with him not to proceed to the wedding. Salusad and his men were fully armed and in camouflage uniforms and combat boots. Also with them were two residents of sitio Spring and Tibugawan who were tied up in ropes and used as guide.
Salusad has been charged with the killing of Lumád leader Jimmy Liguyon in March 2012, but has roamed freely in spite of a warrant for his arrest.
Aside from Liguyon, Nipar reportedly killed community leaders Balangas Anlamit and Mabini Manobia, and harassed residents who engage in gold panning, as they reportedly control the trade of small-scale gold mining in Dao and Kiranggol villages in San Fernando.
The attack on Lumad evacuees in Malabalay City in 2012 and various other atrocities were attributed to Salusad’s group, which human rights groups link to the military.
“For some months already, the community has been receiving threats from Butsoy Salusad. He said he would kill them all if Datu Jimboy Mandagit would not surrender. Salusad has accused Datu Jimboy of being a member of the New People’s Army,” said the Higala sa Lumad.
Mandagit, a young tribal chief of Namnam village, San Fernando and chairperson of Kaugalingong Sistema Naigpapasindag Tu Lumad Ug Paan (Kasilo) in Southern Mindanao Region, had assisted Tigwahanons who evacuated to the UCCP Haran center in Davao City last year.
Mandagit had also reported being harassed and sought by the Philippine Army 68th infantry battalion for speaking out against military atrocities.
The Higala sa Lumád said that the entire Tibugawan community and some residents from nearby areas sought sanctuary at the Kawayan village proper, for fear of further attack from Salusad’s group.
“The community calls for justice against the uncalled for violence,” said the Higala sa Lumád.
Soldiers tortured farmer during ceasefire
On July 26, six soldiers of the 83rd Infantry Battalion accosted and tortured abaca farmer Gerald Teves, 25, whom they passed by in Tucao village, San Miguel, Catanduanes. The soldiers brought Gerald and his uncle, Undang Teves, 49, to a nearby hut where for 30 minutes, the elder Teves was interrogated, while Gerald was tortured.
“Gerald’s hands were tied behind his back using a nylon rope, which was also used to tie around his neck. His feet were tied by a wire to the trunk of a narra tree while his face was covered with a plastic bag. He was kicked three times on the back,” said the Karapatan statement.
“When asked whether he has seen any NPA members, Undang was forced to say yes in order to save his nephew from further torture,” Karapatan added. The two men were made to sign a police blotter, and Gerald was brought to the Eastern Bicol Medical Center in Virac city for medical examination.
‘Empty and defective GRP ceasefire’
Meanwhile, even after President Duterte has retracted the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the NPA, human rights group Karapatan said it was from the start “empty and defective,” as it ordered the continuation of civil military operations (CMO) and other “peace and development outreach programs” under Oplan Bayanihan.
“The AFP should stop deceiving the public. The concept and practice of OpBay’s ‘Whole of Nation Initiative’ means the use of CMO (civilian-military operations), hand in hand with military combat operations,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
She added that paramilitary groups are “being used to circumvent” the ceasefire declaration, as these act as force multipliers for the military.
Karapatan had documented 97 victims of extrajudicial killings by paramilitary groups during the Aquino administration.
Karapatan said even with the unilateral ceasefire supposedly in effect from July 25 up to July 30, they received reports of military operations continued in Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, Davao City, Isabela, Cagayan, Bulacan, Quezon, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Bohol, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Samar, Surigao del Sur.