JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY – The Army is the one to blame for arming tribal militias, one of whom killed a businessman and his wife in Kapalong, Davao del Norte, a tribal organization said.
“The Army trained and armed these militia men which, according to them, will help keep the peace and fight communist rebels, but now civilians became their victims,” said Lito Sampag.
Sampag, spokesperson of Kapalong Manobo IP (indigenous people) organization Karadyawan, said the killing of Reynaldo Labra Martir, 50, and his wife Teresita, 48, last Black Saturday in Sitio Patel, Barangay Gupitan, was only one of the recent killings perpetrated by the militia whom they call as Alamara (Manobo term for widespread indigenous warfare).
“Last March 26, another Alamara killed Sangkok Acero, 43, and his son Dayan, 22, in Sitio Maguimon because of a personal grudge, but it was not reported,” said Sampag.
Davao Today is yet to verify the death of the Aceros with the Kapalong police.
Sampag said “these Alamara are also our kin, we know them not to be braggarts and proud people (mga isog) but because they are now armed, they have changed.”
The suspect, earlier identified in reports as Panggong Masaloon, is also known as Panggong Bucad. Sampag said the suspect wants to get ahead of others who are in line in a corn mill owned by the Martirs.
“He (Bucad) said he wants to go first because his family is already hungry because the government’s issue of three kilos of rice for his family had ran out,” said Sampag.
First Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said in an interview that Masaloon is now in police custody.
Lacambra said Bucad is a member of the Army’s Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu), the Army’s local augmentation force recruited from the IP community.
Lacambra said the Army does not “tolerate” such acts by any member of the Cafgu and that “it was the Army detachment officer (of Bucad’s Cafgu unit) that brought him to the police.”
However, Lacambra added that the Army detachment officer, from the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion, cannot be held “accountable, as the crime committed was personal.”
Lacambra said that if it were an Army operation and civilians get killed, it might have been a different scenario.
Sampag countered that “it doesn’t matter whether it’s a personal grudge or whatever case as they were the ones responsible for the Cafgus as they have trained and armed them.”
Karadyawan is the group who raised the alarm since August last year on the build-up of government troops in their communities.
In December, Karadyawan also expressed fears of the revival of the Alamara who they say were responsible for killing civilians a decade ago.
While the Army and the local government say that the Army and the Cafgu are out to conduct insurgency operations in the area, Karadyawan say “it will only result to harming of civilians.”
“On our own, we were able to survive even a great storm Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) without the help of the government. We were even able to seek help to construct our water and irrigation system, a corn mill and a school,” said Datu Mintroso Malibato, Karadyawan chairperson.
Malibato said “we want to go back to that situation where the Army, the Alamara, are not in our communities so we can farm in peace.”
Karadyawan also accused the Army of harassing their IP schools, barring its teachers from entering their communities and occupying it and other buildings for its anti-insurgency operations.
In January, Davao City Mayor and Regional XI Peace and Order Council Chair Rodrigo Duterte went to the area to conduct a dialogue with Karadyawan, the school teachers, the Army, the Cafgus and local government officials.
The groups agreed that school teachers must be allowed to enter and finish the school year but the school’s operation is to be renegotiated.