INTERFAITH SOLIDARITY MISSION in Defense of Indigenous Communities Fighting Impunity (II)

A. The situation

The July 30 shooting rampage

One pregnant woman dies while at least seven other individuals, five of them minors, are wounded in a shooting rampage of a paramilitary group in the Tigwahanon community of Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon in the morning of July 30.

According to an eyewitness, a teacher of the RMP-NMR Literacy and Numeracy school in Barangay Kawayan, a wedding had just finished in the community when the rain of bullets started. Makinit Gayoran, who was pregnant and was carrying her firstborn, only a few months old, was the first to fall, a bullet hitting her chest.

The paramilitary group headed by the notorious Butsoy Salusad was positioned on top of the hill overlooking the community. They fired at the entire community but concentrated at the house where around 80 individuals were gathered for the wedding.

That morning, Barangay Kawayan IP Mandatory Representative Arnold Manhura reportedly met Butsoy Salusad along the road in Sitio Spring, which just next to Sitio Tibugawan. Salusad was reportedly dressed in military camouflage and combat shoes, and was fully armed. At least 11 other armed men were with him. They also brought with them two residents from Sitio Spring and Sitio Tibugawan tied up with a rope, forced to guide the group.

Datu Arnold said that he had pleaded with Butsoy not to go to Sitio Tibugawan as the appearance of fully armed men might disturb the wedding festivities. Salusad went on and in just a few minutes indiscriminately fired at the community.

Seven of the community members were brought to the hospital, two with leg fractures. Five of them are minors – three teenagers, one 8-year old boy, and another 7-year old boy.

For some months already, the community has been receiving threats from Butsoy Salusad. He said he would kill them all if Datu Jimboy Mandagit would not surrender. Salusad has accused Datu Jimboy of being a member of the New People’s Army. Datu Jimboy was one of the leaders who accompanied the Tigwahanon families that evacuated to Haran in Davao City a year ago after intensive military operations in their communities.

After the incident, the entire community of Sitio Tibugawan and some families from Sitio Sil-angon who were at the wedding went down to the center of Barangay Kawayan to seek sanctuary. They feared that Salusad and his men were still around. The families were not able to bring anything with them when they fled. The next day, families composed of 182 individuals travelled to Malaybalay City where they erected a camp in front at the provincial capitol building that served as their refuge and a symbol of protest against the uncalled for violence and the continuing impunity pestering their communities.

Violation of indigenous people’s rights and the continuing impunity

The paramilitary group of Salusad has been terrorizing the Lumad communities in San Fernando for several years already. They were responsible for the killing of Dao Barangay Captain Jimmy Liguyon in 2012 and other community leaders such as Balangas Anlamit and Mabini Manobia over the years. They are also allegedly controlling the trade of small-scale gold mining in Barangays Dao and Kiranggol in San Fernando.

Salusad is a Member of the Matigsalug community. He called the paramilitary group he formed ‘New Indigenous Peoples Army Reform,’ recruiting members from the Matigsalug communities. The government has used their indigenous identity to resolve their crimes through ‘traditional methods,’ allowing the paramilitary group to negotiate with the families payments (like a horse for killing Balangas Anlamit) instead of heeding the calls of the communities for the arrest and disbandment of the group. This has been the trend in tapping paramilitary groups as investment defense forces, the suppression of communities fighting the abuses of companies put aside as mere ‘tribal wars’ that should just be resolved among the communities. The recruitment of the paramilitary groups has also caused the rift within communities, bastardizing the concept of traditional warriors into bandits who terrorize their own peoples.

In November 2012, an investigative mission, dubbed as ‘Interfaith Solidarity Mission in Defense of Indigenous Communities Fighting Impunity’ was held that uncovered the series of killings of many IP leaders in San Fernando perpetrated by Salusad and NIPAR. Among the recommendations of the mission is the immediate arrest of Salusad. But the culprit still roams freely in the hinterlands of San Fernando. A warrant of his arrest for Liguyon’s murder was issued by the Municipal Trial Court in Malaybalay City in May 2012, but remains unenforced.

The police in San Fernando in 2012 admitted they didn’t have enough personnel to go after Salusad whose group is fully armed. However, recent news revealed that the fugitive Salusad has become a partner of local government agencies in implementing a community-development project that is obviously supporting a counter-insurgency program.  The photographs released shows Salusad and his men clad in camouflage uniform and carrying high-powered weapons as they posed with the government workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. His father, Benjamin ‘Nonong’ Salusad, an alleged member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was also present in the photo.

Extremely difficult conditions, vulnerable women and children

Hunger confronts the evacuees at the camp-out as foods were limited. On the third week of evacuation, the provincial government distributed 50 sacks of NFA rice and ten boxes of canned goods after the internally displaced persons rallied in front of provincial governor's office. There is little potable water supply. Health conditions are poor, and two children have already died of pneumonia, while several others complain of stomach pain and diarrhea. At least four displaced women are pregnant.

Evacuees are cramped in ill-ventilated and poorly lighted tents. At the onset of evacuation, they had to sleep on the ground and endure the cold. The conditions improved a bit when people's organizations donated plastic sheets and bamboos.

Sanitation and hygiene were also issues as there are no latrines at the evacuation site, and evacuees defecate in an open space near the site. Bae Fidela Mandagit and Fatima Duyan, were on their way back to their tents when a man attempted to rape them on September 1 at around 5:00 in the afternoon. The women were coming from a secluded part of the Kaamulan Grounds after having to relieve themselves in the area. The women are forced to go the said area as their comfort rooms as the city and provincial governments of Malaybalay City and Bukidnon, respectively, refuse to open the nearby public restrooms to the Lumads.  A similar incident happened to Malen Mandagit, Dodita Panganlagan and Wilma Panganlagan on September 3, 2015 at around the same time, attacked by the same man.  The women described their attacker as a cowboy with a limp, who is renting out his horses to the public at the Kaamulan grounds.  The cowboy had been repeatedly heard to have stated that he wanted “to have a taste of the Lumad women.”

B. Objectives of the mission

(a) To document string of cases of human rights violations against the concerned indigenous communities and assist them in filing charges against the perpetrators before the judicial and quasi-judicial bodies; Unearth the circumstances around the series of killings perpetrated by Salusad and investigate why he has become ‘immune’ to arrests.

(b) To address the health issues of the displaced IPs through provision of medical and psychosocial assistance.

(c) To show solidarity to the displaced IPs and bring into the attention of media and support groups to the issue.

C. Activities and schedules

September 27. Arrival in Cagayan de Oro City. General orientation. Travel to Malaybalay City.

September 28. Mission proper. Solidarity Night.

September 29. Press conference. Biblico-Theologico Reflection on Lumad and Discrimination. Evaluation. Departure.

D. Convening organizations

Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization is the largest alliance of community-based iindgenous organizations in Northern Mindanao working for indigenous people’s right to ancestral domain and to a self-determined development.

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights is an alliance of individuals, groups and organizations working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. Its founders and members have been at the forefront of the human rights struggle in the Philippines since the time of Marcos’ martial law regime. Set up to respond to the needs of its member organizations, KARAPATAN has very close linkages with them. KARAPATAN’s chapter in Northern Mindanao is among the convening organizations of the activity.

‘Higala sa Lumad’ (Friends of the Lumad) Network is an interfaith support organization and an informal monitoring group for Lumad human rights. Its establishment has been supported by the ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project jointly initiated by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) Inc, Kalumbay, Union of People’s Lawyers of Mindanao, IBON Foundation and the Community-Based Health Services-Northern Mindanao Region and supported by the European Union through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.

E. For questions and confirmations, please contact:

Atty. Czarina Golda Musni

Convener, ‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network

c/o RMP-NMR Inc

Room 310, 3rd Floor, Diocesan Centrum

Salvador Lluch St, Poblacion

9200 Iligan City, Philippines

T/F: +63 (63) 303 1595

Mobile: +63 917 590 8804

E: info@rmp-nmr.org

 

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