By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – A Lumad leader was reportedly forced by the military to falsely surrender himself as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
An urgent alert of the Higala sa Lumad (Friends of the Lumad) Network identified the leader as Joseph Paborada, the chairperson of Pangalasag, an indigenous peoples’ organization of Higaonon families living in Bagocboc village and surrounding communities in Opol, Misamis Oriental.
The alert said that on Oct. 15, soldiers of the 58th Infantry Battalion went to Paborada’s house and accused him of being a communist rebel. The soldiers threatened to bring him to jail if he did not surrender as a member of the NPA.
Paborada’s brother, Gilbert, was the chairperson of Pangalasag when he was killed by suspected state security agents on Oct. 3, 2012. Paborada since took over the leadership of the group.
Pagalasag has been embroiled in a long battle for the right of the Higaonons to their ancestral domain against A Brown Energy and Resources Development, Inc. (ABERDI), the owner of a palm oil plantation in the region. Currently, the organization is undertaking a bungkalan, the collective cultivation campaign aimed to regain control of big lands owned by corporations and landlords.
Despite the issuance of a resolution by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) suspending the operation of ABERDI for its failure to secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate, the property remains fenced off and monitored by the company’s private guards.