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Issue No. 41                         November 25 - December 1,  2001              Quezon City, Philippines

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'Alsa Lumad,' Cafgus Hold Sway in Lumadland

To the Lumads, indigenous peoples of Davao Oriental in southern Philippines, “pangayaw” means defending your community when all other peaceful means has failed. The Lumad villagers see another form of “pangayaw” – and this is the recruitment of Lumad men to join the paramilitary Citizens Armed Force Geographic Unit (Cafgu) and “Alsa Lumad” which is patterned after the notorious “Alsa Masa” of yesteryears in government’s fight against the New People’s Army. Cases of atrocities have been committed allegedly by these paramilitary men in the otherwise peaceful upland communities of Lumads.


BAGANGA, Davao Oriental —When Caloy Magno didn’t come home on September 15, his family became increasingly worried. Their worst fear came on the second day of Caloy’s disappearance: Caloy was found in a remote Lumad village here, dead and his back riddled with bullets.

Zaldy Matibay, 16, and Larry Aumada, 14, two Lumads from this town southeast of Manila, survived what could have been death. They were the last to see Caloy alive. Their other companions — Bebot Banwing, 19, Michael Galgo, 20, and Elvis Tabonon, in his 20s — have not returned home after they were held by the military and were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).  

Zaldy and Larry survived what could have been death in the hands of Cafgus.  

Photo by Daisy Gonzales

Caloy’s brother Aquino Magno, a Mandaya Lumad, could only piece together whatever information about what his brother went through from Zaldy and Larry.

At noontime that day, Caloy, who was in his 20’s, was dragged out of their house by about 18 members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu).  Caloy’s mother, Pagwawon ,watched helplessly as Caloy was taken away at gunpoint.  The heavily armed militia told them they will use Caloy as a “guide” in their operations against the NPA. 

When the armed group took Zaldy and Larry while they were delivering food stuffs for their rattan-cutting chore, Caloy was already with the group. Zaldy and Larry were also accused of being NPA members.

All six of them — Zaldy, Larry, Caloy, Banwing, Galgo and another man called Geno Oson, who is in his 20s --  were brought to the village center of sitio Tigbawan, barangay Binondo, some three hours by motorcycle from here.  They ordered Larry to identify the house of one Romy Magno, a house adjacent to the one owned by Panchito Silat, while ordering the rest of Zaldy’s group to drop to the ground.  The armed men then strafed the house of Silat. This allowed Larry a chance to escape and he ran toward the woods. Three hours later, he found his way home in sitio Mantapay, the adjacent village.


The armed group then left but not after shooting up Silat’s house. They brought with them Tabonon, whom the men suspected was a guerrilla. They went to Panamin and spent the night there. The next day, they were brought to the village center and were interrogated for hours inside a house. 

That night, Caloy and the rest of the captives were herded out of the house. Zaldy couldn’t think of anything at that moment except that he knew they were going to be killed. In a split second – while they were walking single file past the houses toward  a secluded part of the village – Zaldy sprinted toward the forest nearby. Then he heard gunshots. He stayed in the forest overnight, protected by the woods and the darkness. The next day, he was home in Mantapay. Whatever happened to Caloy and the rest of the group, he said he did not know.  On the same day Zaldy arrived home, Caloy’s dead body was found in Panamin.

Village folks here feared that the victims were killed by the Cafgu paramilitary men led by a certain Pedro Mapando, also a Lumad. Mapando’s group belongs to the 27th Special Forces of the Philippine Army. Mapando, villagers said, had launched his own brand of pangayaw  (tribal vendetta).

Zaldy, Larry and Aquino have filed a complaint before the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). They identified Mapando and his nephew Romeo as among the 18 Cafgu men who picked up the victims and the survivors. Aquino has also filed charges of murder and kidnapping against Mapando and his group before the provincial prosecutor’s office in Mati, Davao Oriental.


Lumad villagers said Mapando had been actively campaigning against the revolutionary forces in the area, using pangayaw.  On at least three occasions, villagers saw Mapando and his group during military operations by the 27th SF in the mountainous villages here.  After a July 29 encounter between the NPA and the military, in which one Cafgu whom Mapando knew was killed, Mapando became all the more active in his pangayaw.

But Aquino said that Mapando’s pangayaw is devoid of its truest sense. “This is not a true pangayaw because it is under the 27th SF,” Aquino said in Visayan.

The Lumads’ age-old tradition of exacting justice when other peaceful means had failed has been used deliberately by the military not only here but in other parts of Mindanao, Aquino said.

Just this October, the military’s 73rd Infantry Battalion based in Davao City began organizing about 100 Lumads from the tribes of Ata-Manobo, Ata-Matigsalog and Obo Manobo in the mountain villages of Paquibato and Marilog in Davao City. They call their group as “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.

 Aside from arming these Lumads,  the military, according to 73rd IB’s Col. Eduardo del Rosario, would allow the Lumads to use their traditional weapons such as surit-surit (homemade guns), spears, arrows and machetes.

Alsa Lumad, the 73rd IB’s del Rosario had said, would drive away the NPA guerrillas  and “neutralize” their masa (mass base).

Military connections

The military’s link in organizing these Lumads is Obo Manobo leader Joel Unad, secretary-general of Panagtagpo-Mindanao who has also asked the military to train them to become members of Cafgu.  Unad had reportedly said that his people want to declare a pangayaw against the NPA for the recent killing of Jose Libayao, former mayor of Talaingod town in Davao del Norte.

Libayao, a Lumad Matigsalog, had launched his own brand of pangayaw allegedly under the auspices of the military’s 72nd IB.  In 1994, Libayao’s pangayaw forced many Lumad villagers in Talaingod to evacuate to Davao City.  Libayao was touted to be a protector of the IFMA (Integrated Forest Management Agreement) interests in Davao del Norte, which the Lumad villagers protested. Libayao was a former employee of Alcantara and Sons, a leading plywood manufacturer in the country; it was Alsons that sponsored his rise to local political power in Talaingod.

Tribal leader Amelito Elio denounced the military’s exploitation of the Lumads’ method of tribal justice. The Lumads, according to Elio, “have been used countless times as pawns by the military in their operations.” Elio is the secretary-general of the Pasaka Lumad Confederation, an organization of various Lumad groups in Southern Mindanao.

The military,  Elio said,  “exploit our knowledge of the terrain, our proficiency in indigenous warfare, only to quell local resistance to the encroachment of big business into Lumad areas.  This has always been their motivation.”

For instance, in the mountainous area of Panamin (officially, barangay Pichon of Caraga, an adjacent town here), logging operations are expected to resume soon,  practically continuing the Panamin program of Marcos in the ’70s, where Lumads and their resources were exploited by Big Business aided by the government, Elio said.

“What happened in Baganga was clearly the bastardization of the pangayaw system, which is a system of vendetta for harm done against a clan especially against ancestral domain.  Clearly, this is an orchestration of the 27th SF to benefit capitalist interests in the area,” Elio added.  Bulatlat.com

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