In spite of military denials of links with paramilitary groups, Army soldiers and the paramilitary group Alamara continue to hold sway in southern Mindanao.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Fearing a repeat of the Sept.1 massacre in Surigao del Sur by a paramilitary group, Lumad groups condemned the harassment and continued operation by Philippine Army soldiers and the paramilitary group Alamara, who blocked participants to a festival and school foundation celebration in Davao del Norte on Sept. 28.
The Kalumaran (Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad) said soldiers of the 68th infantry battalion, along with Alamara paramilitary men, stopped more than 100 people who were going to the joint celebration of the 11th foundation day of the Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLC) and the Bwalawan festival, to be held at the STTICLC grounds in sitio (subvillage) Tibucag, Dagohoy village, Talaingod town.
The participants were students and teachers of the STTICLC, Talaingod Manobo community leaders and other Lumad school advocates from Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao City. They were blocked and held at an Army checkpoint at Sitio Daligdigon, Dagohoy village at around 8 a.m.
Kalumaran, a Mindanao-wide Lumad organization, had called for the dismantling and disarming of paramilitary groups. Terror military operations in the regions of Caraga, southern and northern Mindanao have caused evacuation of thousands of Lumad in the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.
The soldiers were with Alamara men led by Datu Lumansad Sibogan “who identified himself as part of the tribal council of Talaingod,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our School Network-Southern Mindanao.
“Sibogan stressed his authority by asserting the need for a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to the tribal council, which he purportedly leads, before any activity will commence in Talaingod communities. Sibogan was backed by the military and the paramilitary group Alamara armed with spears, arrows and bolo,” Valle said.
Early this year, STTICLC teachers and students have complained of harassment by Alamara and soldiers. In March, Sibogan, who is a resident of Dagohoy village where one of STTICLC school is located, had threatened to wage a pangayaw (tribal war) against the school director, Lolita Muya, who, he said, “violated” the tribal culture for not getting an FPIC for the school.
STTICLC was established by Salugpungan, the Lumad group after which it was named, which is composed of 83 Manobo tribes in Talaingod.
Sibogan is one of the three datus presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in mid-September, who claimed to be running after other Lumad purportedly affiliated with the New People’s Army (NPA). Lumad and human rights groups had called them “fake datu” who have no constituency.
Kerlan Fanagel, chairperson of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao cited a similar incident when armed Alamara paramilitary men were with soldiers of the 60th IB who blocked a humanitarian and peace mission at a checkpoint in Kapalong town, also in Davao del Norte province.
“The military not only asked the presence of Alamara in the checkpoints, they were also allowed to carry weapons,” Fanagel said.