Soldiers forcing Lumad chieftains to join paramilitary group

“We denounce the arming of the Lumad people against their own kin, making them pawns against the government’s fight against insurgency.”

By DEE AYROSO
Bulatlat.com

The indigenous peoples’ alliance Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU) called for the pullout of the military and the dismantling of the paramilitary groups in Davao del Norte, who, they said, are forcing tribal chieftains to join a paramilitary group backed by the Philippine Army.

Katribu said the military had encamped in 12 villages in Talaingod town. This was reported by a fact-finding and humanitarian mission in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur conducted on March 8 to 12..

Dulphing Ogan, Secretary General of the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad (Kalumaran), who was part of the mission said Datu Isan Maas and Datu Sumpo Taosan, Manobo chieftains of Talaingod, complained of harassment from soldiers of the Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion who were forcing them to join Alamara.

Alamara is a Lumad paramilitary group operating in the mountainsides of Davao del Norte and nearby provinces, said Katribu. The group was organized by Army Col. Eduardo del Rosario in 2001 as part of the Arroyo administration’s counterinsurgency program. Katribu said its members were charged with killing, rape, theft, and banditry by locals.

“They cited that there were incidents of red-tagging or branding them as NPAs, taking them as hostages, and some were forced to join the paramilitary group Alamara,” Ogan added.

Ogan quoted Datu Taosan who said in an interview by a mission team: “They want me to surrender because they branded me as an NPA (New People’s Army) leader in our community.”

“Last March 8, the Alamara came and gave us two days to go to Sitio Barobo to surrender and join the Alamara. And if we will not, they will return to harm us,” Ogan quoted the datu.

Another chieftain, Datu Maas, said soldiers have been asking about the presence and location of NPA rebels. “We felt harassed and threatened because they insist that we are NPAs,” Datu Maas was quoted by Ogan.

“We denounce the arming of the Lumad people against their own kin, making them pawns against the government’s fight against insurgency,” said Katribu spokesperson Piya Macliing Malayao.

“It is the policy of the Aquino administration to treat our people as cannon fodder in its counter-insurgency operations. President Aquino has no regard for the life and dignity of indigenous peoples,” Malayao said.

Katribu said that 50 indigenous peoples have been killed by suspected soldiers and paramilitary groups since June 2010.

Malayao also pointed out that 13 of the 44 Special Action Forces who were killed in the Mamasapano clash belonged to the indigenous Igorot people.

“President BS Aquino has brushed off the killings, harassments, and human rights violations rife in his administration..He reneged his campaign promise to revoke Gloria Arroyo’s Executive Order 546, which warranted the formation of paramilitary groups. These bandits sustain the culture of impunity reveled in by BS Aquino’s fascism,” Malayao said. ()

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