Friday, April 11, 2014

Tribal leaders, Town Mayor Deny Military Abuses in DavNor

From the Website of Philippine Army

Tribal leaders, Town Mayor Deny Military Abuses in DavNor

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City- Tribal leaders and Mayor Basilio Libayao of Talaingod, Davao del Norte denied the allegations of the militant groups of abuses committed by the military against the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the area following the evacuation of Talaingod Manobo families (tribes) to Davao City during a press conference in Talaingod Municipal Hall Monday noon. Mayor Libayao and the tribal leaders said that “for truth and peace, there were no abuses committed by the soldiers in the area. If indeed there are, then I myself will defend my people, he said.” The mayor also revealed that “the residents were discreetly gathered by a group called PASAKA at night to leave their residences in order to make it appear that the soldiers on peace outreach in the area commited abuses.”

Mayor Libayao further said that they are seeking assistance from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to let the evacuees return to Talaingod. “We are capable to attend the needs of our constituents. The organizers did not inform local authorities of their plan to bring the evacuees to Davao City. We are seeking assistance to the good mayor of Davao City to bring back our constituents here in our municipality. We also apologize for any disturbance, in one way or another, they may have caused.” He further said that he is looking for some violations that the organizers may have committed and may opt to file charges if there are any. One of the tribal leaders who attended the press conference said that “what these organizers did was in violation under their customary laws” (“Ang ilang gihimo, violation man ni under sa ilahang customary laws”

As of this weekend, only 300 individuals from Sitio Lasakan, Brgy Palma Gil of the same town evacuated according to Davao City Social Service Development Office contrary to the claim of PASAKA that there were 1,300 individuals who fled their homes to Davao City on alleged militarization and abuses by the soldiers. However, most of the evacuees preferred to stay in the locality as they are being attended to by the local government of Talaingod.

Chairman, Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development Datu Ruben Labawan said that the evacuees need to return to their respective homes and farms to live normally. “I appeal to the organizers, do not exploit the IPs plight, do not put us at risk. Please respect us”(“Nag hangyo ko sa mga organiser nga ayaw pagpahimulos sa kahimtang sa tribo. Ayaw mi ibutang sa peligro. Respeto lang unta sa mga lumad.”) Datu Labawan said.

Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative of Talaingod Datu Lumansad seeks assistance from LGU of Davao City to bring back the evacuees in Davao to Talaingod. “The organizers are not from us nor from Davao. The act of organizers worsen the plight of the evacuees”. Datu Lumansad said 1003rd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Harold N. Cabreros said that security operations by the soldiers aimed to address NPA’s harassments, deception and extortion activities in the area. "Our troops have uncovered NPA camps, captured landmines and we have even lost a soldier in a clash with them" Col. Cabreros said. He further said that the leftist group are "Taking advantage of the people especially the IPs using them as propaganda in order to stop development from reaching the area".

Another tribal leader on the other hand, Datu Nestor Apas said, “Dili man na sila taga diri kanang mga grupo nga nag organize sa mga lumad ug nag-istorya alang kuno nila, mga dayo man na tanan. Dili sila miyembro sa tribo.” ("The groups who organized the lumads and claim to speak for them are not from here, they are outsiders, and are not from this tribe”) “Gina-violate nila ang customary laws sa tribo sa Talaingod” (“The organizers violated the customary laws of tribes in Talaingod.”)

Meanwhile, EASTMINCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III earlier directed military commanders in the area to extend assistance to the LGU of Talaingod and to the affected indigenous peoples and villagers to achieve normalcy in the area. “It is our desire to protect the IPs from NPA’s deception and anti-people works at all times. Your AFP and PNP will be always the people’s partner in nation building and development. Rest assured that our best effort is served for our people to live peacefully”. Lt. Gen. Cruz said.

The Municipal Council of Talaingod declared a state of calamity last April 1 and has allotted an initial amount of 500,000.00 pesos to cater to the needs of the evacuees. The PASAKA has started removing the evacuees in Talaingod after the declaration. An act considered by the mayor as an insult to his constituency and is extremely deplorable.
Press Release by the EASTMINCOM


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