DAVAO Oriental is one in condemning the killing of Likid Copertino Banugan, the Mandaya tribal leader brutally murdered by the New People's Army, which have long been trying to enter the ancestral domain of Banugan's people in Barangay Pichon, Caraga, Davao Oriental, but have been thwarted because of Banugan's leadership.
Regarded for his strong rule over the areas covered by the certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT-01) and in insisting that his people carry with them the culture and ways of the Mandaya, Banugan personifies the characters of a datu as they were before.
To the NPA, he was the enemy, the land grabber, and the dictator. To his people, he was the one who pushed them to celebrate their being Mandaya, putting up the annual festival in sitio Sangab and the cultural village there, successfully bringing back what was almost forgotten 18 years ago.
He also made sure that the ancestral domain is not sold to anyone and remains a communal property of the tribe, with recognition of who among the tribesfolk have rightful occupancy of a plot.
He set up the tribe's cultural village where they still weave and make their attires and cloths and their baylans are sought out to bless whatever endeavor the community starts on.
His death, along with his brother Ramon and nephew Benny, outside his house in Caraga Poblacion was an overkill. Not only peppered with bullets from high-powered firearms, an M203 grenade was said to have been exploded at the three as well.
The brutality of the death illustrates the long-held anger the NPA has had on Banugan, the very foundation by which his people of the Mandaya tribe respect him.
Banugan's fate underscores what the indigenous peoples have long been trying to explain to those who are trying to talk peace with the communist rebels and the Moro rebels. The fact that the IPs are held hostage by these forces, and yet, are not given a voice and a say.
Especially with regards communist rebels, which put up bases in IP areas, the IPs cannot even raise their voices against them since the rebels are armed, they are not. When they seek government help for protection, they are called spies and are killed, just like Banugan and many before him. When they arm themselves, they are called warlords and are killed, just like Banugan and many before him. When they align with the rebels, then the government forces kill them.
Banugan's death should be the last straw. The government by this time, should understand that the IPs are not just observers, but are the one who suffer the brunt of the conflict. They are forever hostaged by the conflicts and their development is stunted forever.
Why is that? Whenever they find partners to help them develop, their partners are harassed and their leaders are killed. When they develop themselves, they are subject to militarization from both sides.
Here's to hoping that Peace Process Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, who has been going around consulting with IPs, fully comprehend what is happening and once and for all declare all IP communities as zones of peace where they are allowed to rule their people based on their own culture and norms, without the interference and constant agitation by the communist and the militarization of the government.