Philippines: 4 Higanonon Datus face trumped-up murder charges

    [Photo: Diden Landasan, one of the IP leaders charged]
    [Photo: Diden Landasan, one of the IP leaders charged]

    Four Datus (indigenous chieftains), along with eight other members of the Higaonon community in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, face murder charges at the start of 2016.

    Bendiho “Datu Mahurel” Ampildon, Lonie “Datu Manlalaban” Licunan, Bebe “Datu Sandigan” Duco, Loloy “Datu Makiyobo” Ade, Ester Ade, Diden Landasan, Brando Ampildon, Benjack Angunao, Somar Ruiz, Bobby Tilucan, Erand Balanban, and Villamor Diwanan received a complaint from the Provincial Prosecutors Office of Bukidnon charging them with the murder of Melody Dela Mance committed on April 14, 2012. According to Diden Ladasan, there were 9 other respondents in the complaint but they were not familiar with the names.

    The complainant, Dante G. Dela Mance, stated that the respondents participated in the lanning and killing of his brother, Melody. The cited witness, Therisa Santos, claimed that she know very well the respondents and accused them to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

    The victims denied the accusation of killing Melody Dela Mance, an act that had already been owned up to by the NPA. The victims also said that they do not know of and have not attended any meetings to plan the killing of Melody Dela Mance. They also denied the accusations that they were members of the NPA.

    The 12 victims did not receive summons to submit counter-affidavits. The complaint was registered to have been sent from Malaybalay post office on December 15, 2015 and was recorded to have been received by the Cabanglasan post office on December 17, 2015. The respondents only got them on January 11, 2016. The respondents strongly believe that the serving of the subpoenas were intentionally delayed to deny them the due process of legally responding to the charges on time.

    The victims of this action by the Dela Mances are members of the Higaonon community in Cabanglasan and had been active in last year’s call to stop the killings of their Lumad brothers. Some respondents have been involved in the campaign of exposing the Dela Mance brothers’, who are members of the paramilitary group Alamara, involvement in the killings of at least eight indigenous individuals the previous year. They had also been involved in anti-mining, anti-plantation, and land rights protection campaigns. They summed up the filing of false charges as malicious and a form of political harassment. Diden Ladasan said that, “this is a futile attempt of the Dela Mance to weaken our resolve in the defense of our ancestral land.”

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