Military pullout to secure Lumad’s return to communities, bishop says

Lumad evacuees
Some 500 Lumad evacuees and human rights activists march the streets in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur province Thursday afternoon, September 1 to commemorate the first year of their evacuation after the killings of tribal leaders in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town. (Paulo C. Rizal / davaotoday.com)

By EARL O. CONDEZA
Davao Today

TANDAG CITY –Church leaders and activists said only a military pullout from the community would somehow secure the safety of the Lumad evacuees who are returning to their communities a year after they witnessed the massacre of their leaders in a village in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur.

In a press conference Wednesday, September 1, inside the Tandag Sports Complex here, the advocacy group Friends of Lumads said that pulling out of military troops from the community is the demand of the Lumad people.

“Pulling out of military troops would give them, the Lumads, security on their way home,” said United Christ of the Philippines Bishop Modesto Villasanta and convener of Friends of Lumads said.

About 500 Lumads are currently camped in the Sports Complex of Tandag City after they fled their communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur following the killings of their community leaders and a school director on September 1, 2015.

The Lumad evacuees are returning to their communities on Friday, September 2.

Villasanta said for security purposes, the evacuees will go home by batches, and will be bringing those who are physically able to restore and rebuild the community on September 2-5.

He said that during their dialogue with Col. Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, asked them on how would the Lumads be secured if they are calling for the military troops to be pulled out.

Purisima, however, assured the Lumads safety on their way home.

He said that they he will be pulling out their troops from the 75th Infantry Battalion “if necessary” so that the Lumads can go home.

The perpetrators who are members of the so-called paramilitary group-Magahat Bagani– are still at-large even with the warrant of arrest issued against them by the local police.

Father Fortunato Estillore of the Diocese of Tandag City, explained why there is a need for the military to pull out when security is needed for the Lumads return.

Estillore said, “the Magahats will not be courageous without someone fueling them.”

Lumad evacuees
Lumad evacuees and human rights activists march the streets in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur province Thursday afternoon, September 1 to commemorate the first year of their evacuation after the killings of tribal leaders in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town. Among those who were killed is tribal leader Datu Bello Sinzo. (Paulo C. Rizal / davaotoday.com)

“They are depending on someone that could defend them,” he added.

Based on reports and testimonies last year during series of dialogues and senate hearing held in Tandag City, it was said that members of the 75th Infantry Battalion were there near vicinity of the community when the killing happened.

Meanwhile, human rights group, Karapatan said agreed that “it will be safer without the military.”

Karapatan spokesperson, Cristina Palabay suggested to the police of the province that “instead of taking all their on war on drugs, they should also arrest those [Magahat-Bagani] who already have warrant of arrest.”

Palabay also said that they a re also calling for ‘zero budget’ for paramilitary groups which is proposed by the Department of National Defense, where she said amounted to seven million pesos.

On Friday up to Sunday, some of the Lumads are set to go back to their communities in Lianga to “reclaim” their lands.

The Lumad, together with the support groups from various sectors: local government unity, church groups, Lumad advocates, and human rights activists will be bringing with them some supplies for the restoration and rehabilitation of the communities affected. Reposted by ()

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