Misamis Oriental lumad evacuees return home 'hopeful'

LUMAD evacuees from Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental finally returned to their homes on Friday, June 24, amid the absence of the written deal they have been demanding from the military.

After the negotiation on Thursday and without achieving the written deal, the Higaonon tribe at Sitios Tapol and Camansi agreed to go home as they worried on their children who have not reported to their classes yet and the animals and crops left unattended in their community.

They first sought shelter at Lagonglong municipal gym after the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion entered their community and setup an encampment as they go after the New People’s Army rebels.

On June 16, they moved to the Provincial Capitol grounds since they felt being harassed by the military after the 58IB also setup a tent near the gym. They also transferred to the Capitol to bring their complaints and demands closer to the Provincial Government since they have pregnant women, older people and the children who are vulnerable to health risks, the evacuees having only makeshift tents and relying on donated food from the province and religious groups.

Although the military gave no assurance that their demands, such as the pull-out of military troops in their area, the lumads said they can only hope for the better.

"Nagpasalamat ug nalipay mi nga makauli nami kay nabalaka nami sa among mga bata kay eskwela na pero nia pa sila diri," Tagtabolon secretary-general Nenita Hilogon said in an interview.

"Bisan wala pa kasigurohan ang among gipangayo na mahatag gyud, pero at least napaabot na namo didto sa ila kung unsa among hangyo," she added.

The lumad "bakwit" initially asked for a signed agreement with the military, but they were instead given an assurance that their pleas will reach to the military superiors.

Hilogon said what the lumads hold now is the 'promise' the military assured and the Provincial Government's commitment to continue supporting their plight.

"Paabuton gayud gihapon namo kung unsa ilang desisyon. Ang gobernador pud nagsaad man gayud pud nga mutabang siya sa proseso," she added.

It was agreed that the military can set up camp in the village, but that it should be a distance away from the residential area.

Before the military dialogue on Thursday, June 23, the lumads also met with officials of the regional Commission on Human Rights and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to pressure the military to give in to their demands.

The lumad leader said the NCIP and CHR have vowed to help them through the conduct of investigation and fact-finding in their community and visit the evacuees to check their situation.
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