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Volume 3,  Number 25              July 27 - August 2, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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AFP’s Armed Vigilantes Force Lumads to Live in Fear
UN recommendation on paramilitary groups’ pull-out in Davao ignored

The Alamara, a band of Lumads recruited by the AFP, has been reportedly terrorizing the hinterland villages of Davao del Norte, harming and displacing civilians. The Lumads, tired of the violence, are calling for nothing less than the disbandment of the vigilante group.

By Cheryl Dirige
Bulatlat.com Mindanao Bureau

DAVAO CITY -- 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.

More than 500 families, or about 2,600 Ata-Manobos living in the sitios (sub-villages) of Barangay (village) Palma Gil (namely, Tibukag, Km 17, Mitibugaw, Natampod,Bagang, Dolyan,  Lasakan and Tamagan, including neighboring sitios in Pangaan, Nasilaban and Nalubas) are affected in the course of recent Alamara operations.

The military-created Alamara operating in the area headed by a certain Datu Sanggat Logsing of Km 25 threatened to get back at the civilians if New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas attack any of the vigilantes.

An exodus of about 200 Ata-Manobo, about 70 of them children, took place in Lasakan following an incident in May this year where Alamara men led by Sanggat stormed their community and threatened the residents. "If the NPA ambushed us, we will kill you!" the residents quoted the Alamaras as saying.

The Alamara, in that incident, also forced the recruitment of three villagers namely Lito Butod, Makahindog Balite and Andamon Masiluboy but failed when the village leader mediated in their behalf.

Alamara operations

On April 20, about 26 Alamara men and four regular Army soldiers conducted operations in Sitio Bagang, forcing residents to evacuate. The men, who said they were hunting for NPA guerillas in the village, killed the pig of the village leader and stayed in the houses in the community overnight.

Marcelo Mantikinon, the village leader, said that the Alamara leader identified as Andigao dared him to yield his pig if indeed he was telling the truth about the NPAs. “We told them that we didn’t know about the NPA. But he told us that if that were true, then we should give them our pig. We couldn’t complain because they had guns and we didn’t want any trouble," Mantikinon said.

The Alamara, he said, stayed in their houses the whole night and even destroyed the vegetables they planted. The Alamara told them that they would retaliate against the villagers if the NPA attacked any member of the vigilante group.

The Alamara, which is also known as the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) in the villages, are being armed, controlled and financed by the AFP and are being used as assistants of Army regulars and Cafgus during their counter-insurgency operations.

These accounts are based on the testimonies of the Lumad victims who asked the support of the Pasaka Regional Lumad Confederation, a Lumad people's organization in Southern Mindanao.

Datu Monico Cayog, Pasaka secretary-general, said the Alamara, armed with firearms issued by the AFP, patrol the villages using coercive tactics against fellow Lumads to force them to join their group against the NPA. These tactics, he said, include red-baiting and inflicting physical harm upon the civilians.

"As a result, they terrorize the civilians and drive them out of their homes, like what happened to the Ata-Manobos in Talaingod, for fear of death and for fear of being tagged as communists," Cayog said.


Last July 14, a delegation of 18 Ata- Manobos representing the affected communities in Talaingod, together with representatives from religious organizations and support groups working with indigenous peoples, trooped to the office of Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario in Tagum City to complain against the Alamara.

In the dialogue with the governor and a representative from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Lumads demanded nothing less than the immediate disbandment of the Alamara.

The Lumads said the 73rd Infantry Battalion under the command of then commanding officer Col. Eduardo del Rosario was accountable for the rise of vigilante abuses in the region. According to them, the Alamara’s activities were being portrayed by Col. Del Rosario as a “spontaneous uprising” of the Lumads against the NPA. In fact, according to the Lumads, the members were either deceived or threatened into joining the group.

Driven by poverty and lured by the promise of a meager salary and access to guns, the Lumads recruited into the Alamara lay their lives on the line for a cause they do not genuinely understand or believe in, the Lumads said.

Mylin Gamut, an Ata-Manobo from sitio Pangaan, testified in that dialogue that her husband, Kanakan Gamut, used to be a Cafgu member but got out of it when he realized that the measly P900 monthly allowance that he was getting could not support his family.

One day in February, Kanakan was passing through sitio Km. 31 on his way home when soldiers from the 72nd IB accosted him. They said the corn grains that Kanakan had just bought was for the NPA guerillas. One of the soldiers whom Kanakan later identified as a certain Ulagno mauled him right there and then.

Mylene said that since the incident, Kanakan has not gone back to their farm because he has since become very sickly and could hardly walk. 

Constant surveillance

Incidents such as what happened to Kanakan highlight the fact that the Lumads in Davao del Norte have been living under constant surveillance and continued suspicion of being NPA supporters by Alamara members, according to the human-rights alliance Karapatan. Lumads in these villages are going hungry as their parents could no longer work in their farms.

The recruitment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of Lumads into the Cafgu and the Alamara has heightened despite a UN recommendation to pull out paramilitary troops in indigenous areas.

The UN Special Rapporteur Staven Hagen made that recommendation after coming to the Philippines early this year where he held discussions with Lumad people's organizations and support groups working with indigenous peoples.


Support groups, such as the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples (Sagip), are also asking for the disbandment of the vigilante group.

In a statement, Sagip said the harassments reported by the Lumad civilians show that the Alamara is a bane to the indigenous peoples, contrary to the claims of the AFP that they are protecting the villages.

Sagip recalled that, at the height of vigilantism in 1987, the vigilantes were responsible for countless killings, illegal arrests, evacuation, displacement and other forms of human rights abuses inflicted upon civilians.

It also said that the vigilantes are a potential army for political warlords and landlords and tend to resort to banditry.

"Lumads have the right to peace. The Alamara must be pulled out in the areas so that civilians can return to their normal lives, grow their crops and live in peace," Sagip said.  Bulatlat.com

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