Katungod Lumad Alert:
Three Higaonon civilians tortured in Claveria, Misamis Oriental
Three Higaonon civilians from Barangay Mat-I, Claveria, in the province of Misamis Oriental, were tortured by the military in the wake of an armed encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
On September 28, 2015, elements of the 58th Infantry Battalion passed by the community without informing any of the community elders or leaders. After the residents heard an exchange of gunfires coming from the direction of the mountainous parts of their domain called Balahan, they hurriedly packed their belongings to leave, fearing stray bullets will hit them.
Three men who had been out gathering wild plants – which the Higaonon people use for various purposes like medicine, spice, among other things – in Balahan had taken cover when they heard the gunfire. When the shooting died down, they went out of their hiding place, thinking that the armed men were already far. However, the military saw them and were apprehended. They were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA), a communist-led armed group operating in the province.
According to them, they were held at gunpoint and were forced to lie on the ground. They were then bound and blindfolded. The men explained why they were there at the forest but the military insisted that they were members of the NPA. After some time, they were forced to walk with the heavy bags of the military placed on their shoulder. Again, they were accused that they couriers of the NPA. When they reached the military truck, they had difficulty in boarding because of the ropes and bags. The military hauled them up by their hairs.
They were brought to Camp Gabino, a military camp of the 58th IB in Claveria. Inside the camp, they were beaten and asked for names of NPAs. When they would pass out from exhaustion, they would be doused with water to wake them up.
Before they were finally released, the military took photos of them. Their fingerprints were also taken and they were asked to sign a paper – the contents unknown to them.
Balahan is both an economic and cultural area for the Higaonon of Mat-i. It is where many of the residents’ farmlands are, and the forest is where they hunt and forage. Ritual areas can also be found here as it is the practice of the Higaonon to perform a ritual before any major production activity. For a long time, the military has been conducting their operations in these areas, in the ancestral lands of the Higaonon, without having even informed any of the traditional leaders. Worst, the Higaonon dwellers have become suspect of being rebels simply by living in their domain.
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Katungo Lumad Alert is published by the ‘Higala sa Lumad’ [Friends of the Lumad] Network.
‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network is a support group composed of a broad range of interfaith personalities/representative of organizations synergizing relevant capacities and resources for Lumad communities under attack. ‘Higala’ also serves as an informal monitoring network for Lumad human rights. ‘Higala’ has been established as a component of the ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project.