DAVAO CITY – A tribal leader from Kapalong, Davao del Norte believed that the recent attempt to kill a peasant organizer may be the “next level” of harassment to force them to give-up their demand of pulling-out Army troops from their communities.

Datu Mintroso Malibato, chairperson on indigenous peoples group Karadyawan, said the attempt to kill Dexter Selebrado, a volunteer peasant organizer, last September 29 in Tagum City is a “desperate attempt to weaken their organization.”

“We have been consistent that we want to pull out military troops from our communities. Even we, face recent threats like the revival of the Alamara (paramilitary group). Killings may be the next level” said Malibato

In August, a group of IPs led by Larris Masaloon appeared before a television interview to declare a “pangayaw”(tribal war) against New People’s Army rebels, a declaration which Karadyawan called “not genuine.”

Karadyawan also expressed fears that the pangayaw would only target civilians, saying that Masaloon was allegedly involved in the same campaign leading to the death of five individuals ten years ago.

Early September, human rights groups with the request of Karadyawan organized a National Interfaith Mercy Mission towards Barangay Gupitan but did not push through as they were reportedly warned by motorcycle drivers that the Alamara “were waiting in ambush” for them.

Malibato said Selebrado helped them organize the youth to participate in community affairs and later in organizing Karadyawan.

“Selebrado was with us all the way and have helped us strengthen Karadyawan, those who want to kill him may have thought they will also destroy our organization and unity,” said Malibato.

Selebrado himself suspect some in the local government of Kapalong and the Army as behind the attempt to kill him.

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division Commander, Major General Eduardo Año, denied the allegations.

“We never order such things. We equally condemn this act, and whoever the perpetrator of this should be apprehended and made to answer for the crime,” said Año in a text message sent to Davao Today.

Malibato said that last September 28, his 14-year old son was on his was way to the Kapalong town center “but was intercepted by an Alamara in Sitio Patil and was shot with an M14 rifle by hengemen of Datu Larris.”

Malibato said his son was not hit and was saved by a cousin who recognized him.

“But, he is already in shock having almost hit. He was supposed to buy school supplies for the entire school,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pedro Arnado, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said they are “already fearless with such attempts.”

“Our volunteers, some son of farmers themselves from other provinces or regions, go to the farthest reaches of the countrysides to help farmers,” he said.

He said they are always “looking behind their back” but know “that the sacrifice of one’s life for the people is sometimes unavoidable.”

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