A LUMAD leader in Agusan del Sur is in critical condition after he and his companion were shot by still unidentified gunmen while they were on their way home in Sitio Cantagan, Barangay Lucac, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, last November 23.
Datu Walter España, 34, a Lumad-Manobo and barangay chairperson of the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Sur (Namasur)-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Caraga, was shot several times by eight armed men. His companion, identified as Rommel Romon, 22, died in the attack.
España sustained three bullet wounds on his right chest, on the right side of his stomach, at the back part of his waist, and on his legs. He was brought to the hospital. As of Tuesday, November 27, he was still fighting for his life.
Romon, an active member of Namasur, was shot on his legs, chest and head. He sustained three bullet wounds on his head, resulting in his immediate death.
Another companion, identified only as Carillo, was able to escape.
Police in Agusan del Sur identified one of the gunmen as Roger Detros, who also died during a brief shootout.
Police said the remaining gunmen escaped.
Authorities have yet to determine the motive in the attack.
Human rights group Karapatan said that España, along with members of Namasur, have opposed the expansion of oil palm plantation of Davao San Francisco Agricultural Ventures Inc. (Dasfavi).
"He firmly refused to sell the hundreds of hectares to the company despite the grave threats and attempts of Dasfavi to buy his principles by offering him large amounts of money," the group said.
Dasfavi, a Davao-based plantation company, operates an oil palm plantation in Rosario and San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, covering more than 50 hectares of land. It was established in 2012 by the SC Group of Companies of Davao.
The shooting last Friday, November 23, is the recent in a string of attacks recorded by Karapatan in Mindanao in just a span of two weeks.
The other attacks include the alleged abduction of teachers of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Sitio Babalayan, Barangay Durongan, Tagoloan 2, Lanao del Sur.
Reports said that before the teachers went missing, soldiers were allegedly roving the area looking for Sultan Jamla and Datu Langi, both known community leaders in the area.
The whereabouts of teachers Tema Namatidong, 28, Julius Torregosa, 30, Ariel Barluado, 22, and Giovanni Solomon, 20, are still unknown.
In Kitaotao, Bukidnon, a member of a Lumad school’s Parents-Teachers Community Association was shot dead on November 17.
Esteban Empong Sr., 49, was shot dead while asleep in a relative’s house. Empong Sr., a member of Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa, was allegedly harassed by the 19th Infantry Battalion.
On November 18, five students who were on their way home were allegedly tortured by soldiers of the 19th IBPA in Magpet, North Cotabato. The victims, all minors, were students of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. in North Cotabato.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said "this is the real face of martial law, the reality that the Duterte regime is desperately trying to whitewash."
"The government, however, is still eyeing the extension of military rule in Mindanao, insistent on cracking down against marginalized sectors raising legitimate demands. The perpetrators are guaranteed protection, while the Filipino people are left to suffer unbridled repression and plunder," she said.
"The government targets indigenous and peasant communities. Increasingly, the Duterte regime has also trained its guns on teachers. Lumad schools are bad for a government who prefers an uneducated populace. Likewise, progressive organizations are bad for a government who prefers disunity. In any case, after this series of violations, martial law has peddled state terrorism to an unprecedented degree," she added. (SunStar Cagayan de Oro)