Katungod Lumad Alert:

Presence of military troops force Higaonons to evacuate

A total of 28 families from the Higaonon community of Sitio Bulak, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte evacuated on March 16, 2016 due to the alarming presence of elements of the 23rd Infantry Battalion (IB) Philippine Army.

Proclaiming they bring only peace and development to the community, military men allegedly proceeded to interrogate members of the community, and threatened to kill them if their answers unsatisfactory.

The military men first looked for Sario Mandahinog, the chairperson of the Higaonon organization, Pig-akuman. Since he was away for a meeting, they demanded to talk instead to the organization’s secretary, Ayan Belayong. The talk turned out to be an interrogation, the military accusing of coddling members of the New People’s Army (NPA) when he couldn’t answer who the women who ran away when the military arrived were.

Another resident, Rosemarie Binungcasan, was forced to talk about a sack of supplies she allegedly hid behind their church when the military came. When she couldn’t answer about the sack, the military threatened to arrest her.

The 23rd IB then rounded up the community and proceeded to take a census of the whole population. They remained in the community until the night, and occupied the local elementary school as their sleeping quarters.

On the morning of March 15, at around 10:00 o’clock in the morning, the 28 families, composed of 132 individuals, left their community and walked to Brgy. Upper Olave, about eight kilometers from Sitio Bulak. Mandahinog, who had already returned from the barangay session the night before, led the group, together with the community chieftain, Datu Malito Sigahan. But at the waiting shed of Afga, Purok 10 of Brgy. Upper Olave, Mandahinog was detained and interrogated by more members of the 23rd IB for an hour.

At dusk of that same day, the evacuees already gathered at the multi-purpose hall of Brgy. Upper Olave, the 23rd IB arrived. They came in with a ‘Commander Bawang,’ who is said to have created the paramilitary group Gantangan responsible for various human rights violations in indigenous communities. They alleged that the evacuees were supporting the NPA. Among those whom they interrogated were Datu Malito Sigahan, Danny Mandahinog and Toto Baro. They reproached Datu Sigahan for leading the evacuees and ordered him to bring his people back to Sitio Bulak.

The community, however, refuses to return unless the 23rd IB respect their customary laws, stop their unjust accusations, and cease their military operations within their communities.

EXPRESS YOUR CONCERN to the Philippine Government by writing to:

H.E. Benigno S. Aquino III

President of the Republic of the Philippines

E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

 

Hon. Alfredo Benjamin Sabater Caguioa

Secretary, Department of Justice

Email: info@doj.gov.ph; communications@doj.gov.ph

 

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon

Chairperson, Commission On Human Rights

E-mail: mmarianomaravilla@yahoo.com; denniscantos@yahoo.com

Atty. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo

 

Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples

Email: chairpersonsoffice@gmail.com

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III

 

Chair, Justice and Human Rights Committee

Philippine Senate

E-mail: kokopimenteloffice@yahoo.com

 

Hon. Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante-Matba

Governor, Province of Agusan del Norte

E-mail: pgo@agusandelnorte.gov.ph

 

Hon. Norbert B. Pagaspas

Mayor, Municipality of Buenavista

E-mail: lgubuenavista8601@yahoo.com.ph

 

Copy furnish your letters to info@rmp-nmr.org

For more information, contact us at:

Higala sa Lumad Network

Room 01, Kalinaw Lanao Center for Interfaith Resources

0016 Bougainvilla Puti, Villaverde

9200 Iligan City, Philippines

T/F: +63 (63) 223 5179

E: info@rmp-nmr.org


Katungod 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.

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of RMP-NMR and ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.