Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 4 February 23 - March 1, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S WATCH
in Ancestral Lands
on the run” aptly describes the situation of the Lumads, the collective name
for the 18 indigenous ethno-linguistic groups in Mindanao. These tribes have
found life more dangerous since the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
launched Oplan Alsa Lumad, the military operation that created the Lumad
paramilitary group called Alamara and uses them to fight their own people.
Bai Likayan Bigkay, a woman chieftain of a Lumad community in Bukidnon, has been harassed by both the Alamara and the military. She is leading the fight in her village against the Alamara. Photo by Carlos H. Conde
Pasaka Regional Lumad Confedation, which covers the ancestral domains in
Southern Mindanao, described Oplan Alsa Lumad as “a vicious military scheme of
unleashing indigenous vigilantes and fanatics for the government’s
counter-insurgency.” It called Alamara a form of “indigenized” Civilian
Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
a ceremony held last Dec. 5 inside Camp Malagos, Philippine Army’s 73rd
Infantry Battalion (IB) headquarters in Davao City, Alamara leaders
“baptized” Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes with the title “Datu Kalasag”
(shield) where he was given a shield, circa 1920, by Joel Unad, head of the
military-created Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development. Early last
year, Col. Eduardo del Rosario, who leads the battalion and the principal
supporter, financier and logistics officer of the Alamara, had also been
“baptized” as “Datu Limbotong” (defender).
to Pasaka reports, this conferment of the title of “datu” is a
bastardization of the Lumads’ culture, which the AFP has freely engaged in
under its Oplan Alsa Lumad.
Pawns in the counter-insurgency game
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
Alsa Lumad is a rehash of the Alsa Masa in the late 1980s and follows the
divide-and-rule tactic. But its most dangerous element is the use of indigenous
concepts and traditions to distort, erode, and disintegrate the very ethnicity
of the Lumads. It further intensifies the phenomenon called ethnocide, the
systematic decimation of indigenous cultures and peoples.
Oplan aims to “organize an effective village defense system in order to
provide the Lumads with a natural shield against New People’s Army (NPA)
intrusion/atrocities and prevent them from being recruited by the NPA;
neutralize and recover NPA mass bases and establish Barangay Intelligence
Networks (BIN) in Lumad communities; provide the indigenous peoples (IPs) with
livelihood assistance and opportunities; and unite all IPs in the
area-of-responsibility to attain real empowerment.”
contrary to the objective of the Oplan, it only increased the cases of human
rights violations committed by paramilitary men and soldiers.
military link to the Alsa Lumad Movement is established in the February 2002
report of the Committees on Civil, Political and Human Rights, Peace and Order,
and Indigenous Cultural Communities of the Davao City Sangguniang Panlungsod.
The briefing manuscript of the Lihok Lumad Movement of the 701st Brigade
verified it, “Our vision of having insurgency-free Davao by CY 2005 is
highly probable. However, our success largely depends on the unit’s handling
of the growing Lihok Lumad Movement…Alsa Masa in urban Davao in the 80’s,
but today… Lihok Lumad in tribal communities.”
The link was further confirmed in the Davao City council public hearing
where Col. del Rosario admitted that the Alamara is just another name for the Cafgu.
a vigilante group, the Alamara patrols the hinterlands with sharp bolos (machete)
and M14, M16, and other high-caliber rifles from the Army. The members use a
certain “lana” (oil potion) sold at P150 in Kapalong, Davao del Norte,
in the belief that it will give them invincible powers from enemy bullets.
Members in Bukidnon possess amulets called habak having the same faith of
carry a certificate from the military sold at P30 each. Although they are
promised salaries of P1,800 to P3,000 to as high as P7,000, as well as the
military’s P70-million socio-economic projects, they only get P600 a month.
The Indigenous Peoples Apostolate in Malabog reported that while the men now
rely on “quick money” from their Alamara work, women in Alamara communities
now carry the burden of farming.
Cayog, secretary general of Pasaka, criticized this scheme, “We pay taxes to
the government every time we purchase rice, salt, and other needs, or when we
ride motorcycles and jeepneys, or when we get a cedula.
These taxes return to us in the form of bullets and military operations,
or literacy projects from the army to bribe us and win over our loyalty. We are
part of the many people who give life to this government. But what does it give
us in return but death?”
reports say that the AFP took advantage of Lumad fanaticism and vigilantism to
use indigenous peoples as pawns in its counter-insurgency campaign, as quoted
from the AFP’s Briefing Manuscript, “the NPA is the real problem of the
Lumads in the countryside” and “the Lumads should be kings in their own
tribal chieftains (datu) appointed by and under the payroll of the military have
deceived their members into joining the Alamara claiming that it aims to defend
ancestral lands through the application for Certificate of Ancestral Domain
Titles (CADT) and by entering into an alliance with the military for protection.
Pasaka charged, it is these leaders who are leading their culture to
disintegration by allowing the intrusion of projects into their ancestral
territories. The projects were reportedly found to be the cause of land grabbing
of ancestral domains and dislocation of thousands of indigenous peoples.
AFP has likewise boasted of entering into a sandugo or pakang (peace
pact) with the Lumads. Experience however shows how the military violates these
“peace” agreements. For
instance, after a pakang, the military launched an operation in Sitio
Toruyan, Malabog without seeking the consent of the tribal chieftain where the datu
was harassed and intimidated by the team’s commanding officer.
scheme for “extensive and massive tribal war” originated from former
Talaingod Lumad mayor Jose Libayao who was killed by the NPA on Sept. 5, 2001.
The military projected the killing of Libayao as a transgression of the
Lumad’s right to self-determination to goad Lumads into launching retaliations
against the NPA.
was a Manobo from Mapula, Paquibato and not a native of Talaingod. He worked as
a company guard for Alcantara and Sons’ (Alsons) Industrial Forest Management
Agreement (IFMA) before he became the mayor of the newly created municipality.
He was also former president of the United Cultural Minorities Association where
he allegedly used to collect P50 to P100 from each of its 55,000 members.
envisioned himself to be the Supreme Datu of his planned “Lumad Province”
supposedly comprising of the municipalities of Arakan Valley in North
Cotabato, Senuda in Bukidnon, Talaingod in Davao del Norte, and the districts of
Malabog, Paquibato and Marilog in Davao City. This plan would have also served
large-scale mining interests and the expansion of the Alsons IFMA project.
launched a pangayao (tribal war) with the aid of the 72nd IB
in order to control the said areas. Lumads who did not support and participate
in Libayao’s pangayao were tagged as “sympathizers” or “masses of
the NPA.” The pangayao killed a Visayan couple in Pig-alongan,
Paquibato, Davao City, on April 20, 1999 and was also responsible for the
rustling of 44 carabaos and cattles from Kitaotao, Bukidnon, the burning of
houses, and killing of Lucio Huros, a farmer from Colosas, Paquibato. Banditry
and cattle rustling was reportedly headed by then Kitaotao Vice Mayor Lorenzo
Gawilan (now mayor), where the existence of a “Gawilan-Libayao Trail” was
believed to be the transit route for stolen cattles from Senudo to Talaingod.
the military has completely renounced the acts of Libayao.
today, Diodas Pinaling, believed to be the right hand of Libayao and accused of
leading the abuses, is still free from prosecution and arrest.
many Lumads in Talaingod believe that the Alamara is just a new name for
Libayao’s bandit group.
to Col. Del Rosario, Alsa Lumad has 100,000 members, including an estimated 100
armed Alamara in Marilog and some 400 in Paquibato, both districts of Davao
the field, it is the commanding officers of the Army who recruit for the Alamara
and encourage support for Oplan Alsa Lumad.
Davao City, the principal Alamara leader is Joel Unad, a Lumad known to own vast
tracts of land in Calinan and Marilog. He is the applicant owner of 8,000
hectares of ancestral lands applied for CADT.
Labawan, president of the Ata-Dibabawon Tribe Inc (ATADI), is another Alamara
leader. He is the administrative officer of CADC 016 and 093 covering 32,000
Bukidnon, Kitaotao Mayor Lorenzo Gawilan is believed behind the Alamara.
It had been reported that Gawilan received a loan of P26 million from the
International Labor Organization (ILO) for a palm oil plantation
“entrepreneurship” project. Gawilan’s
Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) covers 77,134 hectares, and had
been allegedly made as a “collateral” for his ILO loan.
Talaingod, it is widely believed that Basilio Libayao, son of the former mayor,
is the brain of the Alamara. Like the father, Basilio had also been linked to
bandit activities. In Talaingod, Datu Luis Sangat heads the Alamara. He
reportedly takes his orders from the Libayao family.
Kapalong, the Alamara leaders are known as Nonoy Tubao and Datu Makurampil.
Tubao is a trader and Makurampil is also a staunched pro-IFMA leader. In the
communities, Datu Laris and Datu Isaac Laydan are responsible for the selling of
the oil potion to the Alamara members particularly in Patil and Kapugi. Laydan
is also a known Alsons IFMA supporter.
an Alamara concept paper obtained by Pasaka from Bukidnon, the paper reveals a
“central commander” known as Bagang Bangan Banlayen and a “field
commander” known as Kulihi. In
Lanipao, Kitaotao town, in Bukidnon, a Commander Bansilan heads the unit.
the list, Alamara leaders appear to be aspiring landlords, being applicants if
not actual holders of various CADCs/CALTs, where communal land ownership becomes
their personal ownership.
to Pasaka, the “terrorism” wrought by Oplan Alsa Lumad through the Alamara
has resulted in various human rights violations. They include forced
evacuations, murders, torture, massacres, hamletting, grave threats, illegal
detention, and food blockades. These violations show that the victims of Oplan
Alsa Lumad are the Lumads themselves.
human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao recorded a total of 87 cases
victimizing 625 Lumads from January to Dec. 5, 2002. Horrible accounts of these
violations are documented and have been submitted to the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights.
Audiencia of the 72nd IB allegedly
threatened the Lumads of Talaingod saying “Kung dili mo mo-alsa dinhi, mga
NPA mo!” (If you won’t rise up, then you are NPA members), attested
a purok (area) leader.
Manuel Engay, Leo Ondali, and Berto Sarunor of Malamba, Marilog District, Davao
City, allegedly suffered from physical assault in the hands of a certain Lt.
Calapini after an NPA-AFP encounter. Lt. Calapini was heard warning the Lumads: “Magpasalamat
mo kay walay namatay sa amoa kay kung naa pa, patyon ta mong tanang sibilyan kay
I-charge ta mo nga NPA! (You are lucky we had no casualties. Otherwise you
civilians would be all dead. I will charge you as NPAs!)
leaders who are against the Oplan are either being hunted or coopted.
Datus Pendio and Dogoan of Sitio Kiman-anaw, Brgy. Salapawan, Paquibato
District approached the Davao City Council in February 2002 to complain of
forcible recruitment and training by the 73rd IB for the Cafgu.
The complaint was published in a local daily, a news website, and aired
over a local television station.
same was also brought to the attention of Tabang Mindanaw, a non-government
organization promoting sustainable agriculture. Tabang Mindanaw consequently
made a statement opposing Cafgu recruitment in its beneficiary areas. The 73rd
IB reportedly “invited” the complaining datus for a meeting. In the
subsequent public hearing on the matter called by the City Council, the datus
retracted their complaint, forcing the council to defer the probe on forced
Cafgu recruitment among Lumads until new evidence is presented.
the complaint of Bai Likayan Bigkay, a Bibiyaon (woman tribal chieftain),
against Alamara recruitment and abuses in her area was also dismissed by the 73rd
IB as a “cry of Karapatan”. The military claimed the human rights group
“coached” Bigkay during a press conference on the issue held by Pasaka and
Karapatan. The Bai refuted this by
saying that as Bibiyaon, she is compelled to speak only the truth. Bigkay’s
members attest that ever since their tribal chieftain spoke before the media
against the Alamara, she has been hunted by the military.
on the reports submitted by local organizations, the following are the adverse
effects of the Alamara and Oplan Alsa Lumad:
in ancestral domains
to Pasaka reports, the plot of the Alamara leaders to monopolize large tracts of
ancestral domains— from Bukidnon to Talaingod, from Arakan to Paquibato—
aims to facilitate easier entry of big capitalist interests into ancestral lands
and territories such as palm oil plantations, IFMA, and large-scale mining
companies. Capitalists regard land as a source of profit even if it means
destroying people and the environment. On the other hand, opportunist leaders
who have emerged as new landlords will only benefit from the royalties of these
businesses at the expense of their fellow Lumads and the land.
leader Unad, who also heads the Tribal Supreme Council for Peace and
Development, admitted that multinational companies like Dole, Marsmann and a
Malaysian firm approached him to establish plantations and businesses in their
lands. Unad said he favors the
entry of palm oil plantations and mining.
big capitalist interests and landlords are grabbing ancestral domains from the
Lumads, the “counter-insurgency” operations of the military mainly targeted
those who oppose these encroachments. If divisiveness prevails among the Lumads,
it becomes easier for mining, logging, and plantation corporations to seize
Arroyo government’s anti-Lumad and anti-environment policies
mining, plantations, and IFMA are the concrete implementation of Arroyo’s
globalization program called as “development aggression.” To implement it,
militarization through the Alamara under Oplan Alsa Lumad is the government’s
policy that offers the ancestral domains to big local and foreign capitalists.
campaign of the military and the Alamara to tag as rebels those they could not
control and deceive, is part of the counter-terrorism campaign of the Arroyo
government. This scheme serves to suppress the Lumads’ resistance.
struggle of indigenous peoples to defend their ancestral lands is also being
criminalized as exemplified in the case of Datu Guibang Apoga, chair of the
Salugpungan ta tanu Igkanugon (Solidarity in Defense of the Ancestral Land) in
Talaingod, Davao del Norte who has a P200,000 reward on his head. Guibang’s
photo appears in a poster of wanted criminals with corresponding prize money for
their captors or informers. Guibang, aside from actively opposing the Alamara,
has been waging a pangayao against alleged land-grabbing designs of the
Alsons IFMA project since 1994.
Pasaka, the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) is an “inutile”
government agency in the midst of the numerous abuses of indigenous peoples
rights. In the AFP’s briefing paper, the NCIP is recognized by the military as
a partner in the implementation of Oplan Alsa Lumad.
sum effect of “development aggression” and militarization for the Lumads is
a long time, the Lumads lived in peace until intruders disturbed them. At the
price of being labeled terrorists or communists, the Lumads said they will
continue to assert their historic and ancestral rights and emerge victorious.
Not only do the Lumads believe that their lands are the country’s “last
frontier” where natural resources still abound. Losing their land for them is
tantamount to losing their lives. Bulatlat.com