A PROGRESSIVE group leader, who represents the Indigenous Peoples (IP), was shot dead by unidentified assailants on Friday, August 23, in Valencia City, Bukidnon.

Bai Leah Tumbalang, 45, a Tigwahanon leader from San Fernando, Bukidnon was shot dead Friday around 3 p.m. The perpetrators fired a bullet to her forehead, killing her instantly.

Witnesses said two men riding a Red XRM (Motorcycle) were seen tailing her and eventually shot her dead.

According to Kalumbay, Tumbalang was a mother of seven children.

Tumbalang is an active member of Kaugalingong Sistema Igpapasindog Tu Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo), a Lumad and peasant organization in the province. She is also a Bayan Muna organizer.

“Being a Lumad leader in their community, she is at the forefront in fighting for their rights to ancestral land and self-determination,” the group said.

The group said Bai Leah is the 14th murder victim in Bukidnon this year, following Jeffrey Bayot on August 12.

A week before her death, Leah reportedly received a text message from an unknown number that says her “death is near”.

“In 2011, she and former Kasilo Secretary-General Jimmy Liguyon received death threats as they lead their organization against the deployment of the para-military groups backed by mining interests in their communities. The same year, Jimmy was killed,” the group added.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Surki Sereñas, Valencia City police chief, said they are conducting an in-depth investigation of the incident and vowed to give the family justice.

“Despite the information that she was allegedly working against the government when she was still alive, we couldn’t just leave it like that. We need to give justice to the victim’s orphans, the relatives and the community she was working with,” he said.

“We are calling on her friends and relatives who might have information relative to the murder. We earnestly appeal to them to trust the police. We will do our best to give them justice,” he said. (PJ Orias)