DAVAO CITY—Two years ago, Manobo folks of Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur province had fled their homes due to militarization in their areas.

This was showed in an agreement signed on November 3, 2011 which set the conditions allowing the Manobo tribes to return home peacefully.

The agreement was entered by and between Datu Jalandoni Campos and local government of Lianga and Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion based on Surigao del Sur.

In the said agreement, the Manobo “bakwits” represented by Campos and the 29th IB have agreed not to implement the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD).

It was also agreed that during counter-insurgency operations, “they (the military) should respect the rights of the civilians. The military should not temporarily or permanently stay in the tribal communities, residences, and public facilities owned by the community.”

“The military must never erect a patrol base or detachment within our ancestral domain,” the agreement said.

The agreement, however, recognized and allowed the entry of government-sponsored projects initiated by the military on the condition that “it will be coursed through and implemented by the local government.”

The 2011 agreement was signed by then 29th IB Battalion Commander Col. Henry A. Robinson, Social Action Center Director of Diocese of Tandag Rev. Fr . Antonio Galela, Municipal Mayor Roy Hegino G. Sarmen, Barangay Captain Liby M. Te and Datu Jalondoni Campos.

Human rights group Karapatan in Caraga said the “tribal communities in Lianga were targeted by military operations forcing the Manobo folks to evacuate their homes out of fear.”

In 2011, a military-instigated Task Force Gantangan – Bagani Force (TFG – BF) led by Marcos Bocales established a detachment in Logdeck, St. Christine, Lianga after massive military operations of the 4th Infantry Division, said Karapatan.

“The presence of this armed paramilitary group forced the community members to leave Logdeck and establish a community in neighboring Kabulohan,” Dr. Naty Castro, spokesperson of Karapatan, said.

Last month, close to 2,000 Manobo folks have fled their homes for the same reason—militarization— in the same tribal communities under MAPASU in Barangay Lianga that were targeted by Bagani forces led by Datu Calpit Egua, a tribal militia allegedly controlled by the military.

For United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Modesto Villasanta, “the military should respect the 2011 agreement so that these tribal communities won’t be victimized again.”

“The only way to resolve this conflict is by respecting and implementing what has been agreed. They should learn from the past to avoid further conflicts in the future,” said Villasanta . –MART D. SAMBALUD/davaotoday.com

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