Thirty-six Lumad families encompassing 187 individuals fled their homes in Sitio Camansi, Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental yesterday, March 29, after elements from the 58th Infantry Battallion allegedly encamped in their community and forced them to surrender as members of the New People’s Army.
At 5 am that morning, around 100 soldiers arrived in their community, and conducted an ‘information drive’, distributing flyers showing what the community will get in return if they surrender firearms. Datu Reynaldo Ayuma, chieftain of the community belonging to the Higaonon people, complained that the soldiers threatened to stay in their community if they will not cooperate.
They decided to evacuate and reached Cagayan de Oro City an 1 AM on March 30 where they are now taking sanctuary.
The evacuees declared that they will stay in front of the provincial capitol of Misamis Oriental in Cagayan de Oro City until the military pulls out from their community. They are again dismayed that the 58th IB, even after rounds of dialogues in the previous years, are putting them in danger again, driving them out of their domains, far from their livelihood. Ayuma furthered that their evacuation is again a statement that their decisions are not respected by the military in their own ancestral lands.
Ayuma said the presence of the military men is intimidating, preventing them from moving freely, especially in going to their farms. They also raised the danger for the community getting caught in a crossfire should their enemies attack them.
Ayuma, a member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Organization, Tagtabulon, also pointed out that the community already evacuated several times in the last two years. Tagtabulon is actively involved in the campaign for land rights and the right to self-determined development of the Lumad.
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