Higaonons evacuate from military occupation of community

Photo from Kodao Productions website.

By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
Kodao Productions

A hundred and fifty-eight Higaonons have again been driven away from their homes by the military in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, Lumad organization Katungod said.

Thirty-five Higaonon families are now encamped at Lagonglong town center after soldiers of the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army occupied their homes and community, the group said.

The military has reportedly repeatedly subjected the community to threats, harassment and intimidation, accusing the Higaonons of being members or supporters of the New People’s Army.

Led by their datu Reynaldo Ayuma, the evacuees were forced to leave their homes on May 26 and walked on foot for days, Katungod in an alert said.

It was the community’s sixth forced evacuation due to military harassments since 2015, Katungod said.

Young Higaonon evacuees at Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental. (Katungod photo)

On May 28, trucks from the municipal government of Lagonglong tried to fetch the evacuees but were turned back by the soldiers at a checkpoint in Sitio Ara-ay in Kibanban village.

The next day, Katungod sent vehicles but the soldiers again tried to prevent the victims from proceeding with their evacuation.

The Lumad reportedly told the soldiers that unless they are left alone and the soldiers vacate the homes they occupied, they will proceed with the evacuation.

When the Higaonons arrived at Lagonglong town proper, they were prevented from using the municipal gym as evacuation center as the venue is being prepared for the town fiesta on June 24.

The evacuees have encamped in a covered basketball court in another part of town, Katungod said.

“The Higaonons believe that the intensified military operations aim to drive them away from their ancestral lands which covers parts of Mt. Balatukan and facilitate the entry of large-scale mining companies and agribusiness plantations,” Katungod added. Reposted by ()

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