They could right now be running around playing tag. Or they could be plodding the mud, enroute to a day of climbing trees, swimming in streams. Or they could just be at home, helping their mothers prepare lunch or their fathers their snares, or preparing for school tomorrow. Except that they are not in their communities. They are on the cold ground of the covered court of their barangay – hungry, tired, still remembering the bullets that missed them. And then there were those who were less fortunate and had to be rushed to a hospital.
One pregnant woman and five children were wounded yesterday simply because an animal in camouflage and combat boots decided to have a shooting spree in their community. The animal has for a long time been known to have the name ‘Alde Salusad’ or ‘Butsoy’.
Salusad has gotten it to his head that he could simply take any life that doesn’t suit his grand plans. As if he were god. And the government has given him all the reason to think so.
A warrant of arrest for him had already been released. But what do state forces say? He’s very difficult to capture – he knows all the movements of the military. But why on earth would he not? His father, Nonong Salusad, is a regular member of the Philippine Army. Nonong himself has been accused of several grave human rights abuses.
The government can’t do anything. The government can’t do anything because it doesn’t want to do anything. Butsoy Salusad has branded all communities against him as supporters or members of the New People’s Army. He, being a high-ranking official of the NPA a long time ago, seems to have credibility in the eyes of government officials. And so he is able to lead everyone on, playing on the government’s interest to actually forward his own.
Do we express our indignation? Is being indignant enough?
More than four years ago we were together with the Lumad in crying out our indignation after Butsoy Salusad gunned down Jimmy Liguyon in front of his small children – his five-year old child was embracing him when he died. Jimmy was then Barangay Captain of Dao, San Fernando. But did the government which he had been diligently working for care? After the initial clamor, the issue died. It has been silent for so long. Perhaps the gun is indeed an effective silencer – it commands the people to forget about their dignity and keep their mouths shut. It is the magic wand that transforms humans into fearful beings willing to live degraded lives while the wielder has his boots on their heads.
We are only hopeful that the memory of Liguyon’s resolute bravery continues to live on among his people. To say that we, members of religious organizations, are enraged is not enough. The scar on the children who dove into the mud to save themselves would be there for life. No amount of justification, of whatever distorted reasoning Butsoy has, is able to bring back the lives lost.
We do not want to merely express our anger. We are committing to be with the people for as long as they continue to fight.
Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM
31 July 2016
[FILE PHOTO: Tigwahanon Lumad mother and child in Halapitan, San Fernando, Bukidnon--among the communities terrorized by Alde Salusad and his group, NIPAR]