Tribal folks stuck in military-NPA conflict

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Friday, May 2, 2014


RESIDENTS belonging to the Matigsalog tribe of San Fernando, Bukidnon are asking for help as they are currently stuck due to the conflict between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA).

Hostilities are currently happening in the boundary of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon, said Datu Arilo Cabungcal, general secretary of the Kaugalingong Sistema Igpasasingog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo).

Cabungcal said the root of the fighting allegedly started with the operation of San Cristo Mining of about 13,000 hectares covering three barangays: Dao, San Jose and Bunakaw in San Fernando town in Bukidnon.

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He said some of the residents are opposing the mining operation of the firm, while others do not.

“That’s what people call the ‘Tribal War’ when inner tribesmen fight with one another. There were people who died during the war that broke out among the barangays because some did not agree to the agreement that they had,” said tribal leader Datu Jomorito Goaynon on Thursday.

Cabungcal said there are 29 families from Bunakaw and 22 from San Jose who are being affected in the alleged encounter.

Those from Davao del Norte fled from their homes and those from San Fernando opted to stay.

The Philippine Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion (68IB) has been deployed in the area.

The residents have complained that their families’ lives are in danger as they are caught in the crossfire.

Both Cabungcal and Goaynon said that residents in the San Fernando villages are complaining against the presence of the 68IB in their community.

“Basically, they want the military out. There is no NPA in the area since they [NPA] know that the military is nearby. Probably now, they already fled from the area. If they fled, then the military should pursue them, not stay in San Fernando. We don’t get it why they have to stay there for long,” Goaynon said.

The residents have been allegedly harassed by the military by getting their crops such as ‘kamote.’

Goaynan cited the international laws on the ancestral domains.

“Bombing on the ancestral domains and desecration is prohibited. The military should know that,” said Goaynon.

The datus are infuriated because the military are allegedly forcing some residents to surrender as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and travel with the military to get amnesty from the government.

“Why should they surrender when they are not part of the NPA naman?” Goaynon said.

However, the military denied the allegations it had bombarded the Matigsalog’s ancestral lands.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Gille, of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said that the military had never engaged in a series of aerial bombings in the area.

But Gille confirmed however that the soldiers from the 68IB conducted clearing operations, although he did not specifically stated the methods used in the conduct of the offensive.

“The NPA is just doing this to prolong the issue since we do not give attention to such issues anymore,” Gille said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 02, 2014.

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