No value for life

[Editor’s note: The story below forms part of the Lumad Rights Report released by the ‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network. You can download the copy of the report, here. Alternately, please visit this webpage.]

 

 

 

In December 2014, village captain and traditional leader Datu Necasio ‘Angis’ Precioso Sr. was killed by suspected members of a paramilitary group working with the  26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in San Luis, Agusan del Sur. Prior to his death, Datu Angis had been in an argument with M/Sgt. Andres Villaganas after the military called for members of the Banwaon community for interrogation. During the interrogation, Villaganas accused them of supporting the NPA. Datu Angis defended them and stated his opposition of the further recruitment of their community members under the COPD[i].

The resistance of the Banwaon of San Luis, Agusan del Sur, under the Tagdumahan organization has been historically consistent. They did not join their neighbors and kin in the government drive to recruit them to the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), the Lumad recruitment facilitated by the government institution, Presidential Assistant on National Minority (PANAMIN). When the military, officially under Col. Noble, and later on as a renegade group under the same commander, had killed several indigenous and non-indigenous individuals in the province, Banwaon leaders who had refused to be under the leaders of the PANAMIN decided to fight back, activating their bagani forces. This is a concrete expression of the Lumad tradition of taking up arms in defense of lands and rights.

Not only were they resisting against the callousness of the military – they were also registering their opposition to the logging concessions that had started operations in their ancestral lands without their approval. They operated in the same areas where units of the communist-led NPA were also active. Both the Bagani and the NPA then became the identified enemies of the military and their auxiliary groups.

This identification is carried on today even after the Banwaon had sat in peace to talk with the companies and had reached amicable agreements. The bagani warriors, traditionally active only when there is a threat to their community, had also reintegrated in their communities. They did not surrender to the military through the program of the government for the NPA rebels. They were, after all, warriors of their community and were acting in the interest of protecting their people.

The organization of Tagdumahan was established after the community decided they needed an unarmed force to defend them. However, their position regarding the protection of their ancestral lands and the consequent refusal to submit under any leadership that wishes to open up their natural resources to large-scale extractive operations has resulted in their continued subjection to military harassments.

 

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[i] ‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network. Katungod Lumad Monitor Factsheet: ‘Death of Necasio ‘Angis’ Precioso, Sr’. 25 September 2014.