DAVAO CITY – While a Lumad woman was in labor inside an evacuation center ran by the religious, hundreds of indigenous peoples (IPs) believed to be members of the paramilitary group, Alamara, passed by the center and held a brief protest action against the New People’s Army.
The militiamen aboard trucks and Lawin-type public utility jeepneys carried placards with messages which read “NPA hinungdan sa kalisud sa tribu sa kabukiran” (NPA is the cause of the hardships of the tribes in the countrysides).
Jong Monzon, spokesperson of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations said they were preparing for the coming of the Alamara after receiving a text message from an evacuee who was able to return to their community. Monzon said they are withholding the identity of their informant for his safety.
Monzon said the source was taken by the Army and Alamara members upon returning to their community. He said the source overheard that the Alamara will be holding a protest action and will be calling on their relatives to return home.
Inside the evacuation camp, some men were preparing bamboos and “suyak” which they say they will use in defending the camp.
Monzon, kept on telling the Lumads to “relax” and not to engage on a fight.
Last July 23, the police assaulted the church-compound in a bid to “rescue” the IPs inside.
The police forced their way inside by breaking the gate. Both the Lumads and the police suffered casualties after the commotion.
Buses and trucks to ferry the indigenous peoples home were provided by the local government unit. After negotiations, no Lumad boarded the vehicles.
After almost five months, the IPs believed they will face the same scenario.
“Sakit makita nga mismo mga bata namo diri nangandam og suyak. Klaro nga na-trauma gyud sila sa nahitabo diri tong Hulyo diin gisulod gyud ang evacuation center aron nga pugson nga mopauli ang mga Lumad bisan wala pa gihatag ang amoang mga demanda (It is disheartening to see that even our children here are preparing “suyak”. It is clear that they were traumatized after the incident in July where the authorities forcibly entered the evacuation center to force the Lumads to return home even if our demands were not yet given),” said Monzon.
The Lumads were calling for the pull out of the military from their communities and the rebuilding of the community schools which were closed down due to allegations that is is being operated by the New People’s Army.
But Maj. Gen. Rey Guerrero, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command said that they cannot order the pull out of the troops who are carrying out government programs.
Guerrero said the presence of military in the communities does not mean “militarization” because they have a duty to maintain peace and order.
Guerrero also called on the groups to talk about the issue.
Meanwhile, Monzon said they are “preparing to defend the evacuation camp.”
“This is a private property and should they attempt to enter here again, it will really be chaotic,” he said.
“We believe that the protesters were dictated upon by the Army,” he said.
The Army denied that they have knowledge about the protest.
For her part, Josie Labeninay, a Lumad from Kitaotao town in Bukidnon who assisted in the giving of birth of her niece Tuesday said she was unaware of the protest of the IPs.
However, she said the protesters seem to believe that they are NPA members.
“So they really believe that the Lumads who are evacuating here are NPA members?” asked Josie.
“We are not NPA members. We don’t have arms and we don’t live in the forest,” she said.
Labeninay was among the 15 civilians who was arrested on allegations that they were NPA members on August this year. She left her 7-month old son when she was taken to Maramag town in Bukidnon.
Labeninay said militarization of their communities is happening because the military is occupying their village and school.
She said they decided to flee their community because the military is arresting even civilians.
Monzon said they believe the Alamara will return on Wednesday. (davaotoday.com)