“I was accompanying 36 students of the Misfi academy when this happened. They also brought the students with me. We were interrogated.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Lambid Malibato and the rest of their community in Kapalong, Davao del Norte knew for a long time that the military and the paramilitary group Alamara were working together in the government’s bid to encroach on their ancestral lands. But the confirmation still left him shaken.
“They said they would kill me if I resisted arrest,” he told Bulatlat.com.
Malibato, 38, was arrested twice by the Alamara. But it was during his second arrest that he was able to prove – though it has long been common knowledge in their community — that the military and the paramilitary group were indeed working together.
On March 18, soldiers and Alamara forces arrested him and brought him to the military camp of the 60th Infantry Battalion, where he was interrogated and accused of being a member and supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA).
While being detained, he saw other members of the Alamara loitering inside the military camp.
Since the plight of the Lumad was exposed with the Sept. 1 killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, the Philippine government and the military have been firm in denying their links to paramilitary groups. At first, the military claimed that the NPAs were behind the attacks. But soon it changed its line and said these were brought about by a “tribal war.”
Malibato, along with hundreds of Lumad families, forcibly evacuated from their homes on April 25 and sought refuge at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran (UCCP) compound in Davao City. He then travelled all the way to Manila, the farthest he has gone away from his home, as one of the delegates of this year’s Manilakbayan, with high hopes that the Aquino government would look into their condition.
Malibato was first arrested by the Alamara on Feb. 18. When he was on his way to Asuncion town in Davao del Norte to attend a dialogue with government agencies, he was apprehended and brought before the police station.
“I was accompanying 36 students of the Misfi academy when this happened. They also brought the students with me. We were interrogated,” he said. Misfi stands for the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc., an NGO which runs Lumad schools now being attacked and branded as training facilities of the NPA.
They were freed a week later.
Less than a month later, on March 10, he was again arrested and brought to the camp of the 60th IB by members of the Alamara. The Alamara men threatened him that if he would not go with them, he would be killed right there and then. When they arrived in the military camp, Malibato said, he saw more Alamara members there.
This time, Malibato was arrested along with two other chieftains, Sintunan Malibato and Paku Tiklunay.
He said most of those who were arrested with him were scared while they were detained, and even after they were freed. Some even got sick because of the trauma they experienced.
“But I was never afraid. I know that my tribal mates draw their strength from me. What would happen if I give up?” Malibato said.
Best interest to protect IP schools
Despite the continuing attacks against Lumad schools, Malibato said their people would never turn their back on the educational institution that provided their children and their families a beacon of hope.
Malibato, himself, has three children studying in Misfi. Apart from providing education, he said, the Lumad school also helped put up irrigation and a rice mill. These, he said, were services they have long asked from, and denied by an unheeding government.
But these services have also led to the attacks against their school and their community. The Save Our Schools Network has already documented at least 95 attacks against tribal alternative learning centers that were perpetuated by both government troops and paramilitary forces. The most recent was the burning down of a branch of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development in Padiay village, Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur.
The attacks against the Lumad have also yet to stop with three more killed in the past weeks in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon.
Malibato said, “Our calls remain strong. We want the government to pull out its troops and stop the closure of our schools. Despite hardships, we continue to remain strong and we do not mind the difficulties we face along the way.”