PHILIPPINES: ROUND 2 EVACUATION: DAO TIGWAHANON LUMAD’S CAMP OUT AT CAPITOL GROUNDS

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    Twelve Lumad Tigwahanon families, comprising of 47 individuals, along with sympathizing students, were on their 6th day of peaceful protest on 3rd September 2012 in front of the Provincial Capitol at Malaybalay in the southern Philippine province of Bukidnon when eight masked men, riding in four XRM motorcycles, arrived. They suddenly took off the streamers and placards of the protesters, pulled out the sound system and destroyed its amplifier.

    The Lumads of Tigwahanon tribe were forced to evacuate Sitio Kiranggol, Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon for the second time for fear for their lives. Alde “Butchoy” Salusad killed their village chieftain and anti-mining advocate Jimmy Liguyon on 05 March 2012. On August 2nd, Salusad returned and indiscriminately fired at the Kiranggol villagers. The terror being sown by Butchoy and the paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR), and Butchoy’s father, Nonong Salusad of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), forced the indigenous community to evacuate Kiranggol and seek refuge at the provincial Capitol. Equipped with an electric shock device, they directed it at random to the group as they made their quick get-away. It was a well-coordinated quick operation that caught everybody by surprise.

    The group strongly believes that the motorcycle-riding-men-in-hood-armed-with-tasers are members of the state forces. They were seen sitting in the Capitol building with the Civil Security Unit of the Provincial Capitol just after the attack. The inaction of the members of the Capitol Security Unit, the police and the military – in full-battle gear – stationed nearby vouches for this claim and makes it plausible that they acted as look-out. The police even cordoned the protest area hours ahead, but did not block the motorcycle the men were riding in.

    The protesting Tigwahanon Lumads had been trying to establish a protest camp (Kampuhan) outside the Provincial Capitol since 28 August 2012. The setting-up of the camp that will also serve as a temporary sanctuary for the Lumads, has been deterred by the military and the police since the protesters arrived. Members of the League of Filipino Student (LFS) Lanao, Liga ng Kabataang Moro (LKM) Lanao, STAND-IIT, and Bayan Muna Youth-Bukidnon joined them in solidarity on 01 September 2012 up to now.

    It should be noted that this is the second time that the Dao villagers have evacuated their place due to Salusad and camped out at the provincial Capitol. The Liguyon family and other villagers camped out in the same Capitol grounds for about five months after the killing of Jimmy in March 5th with the hope that the government will provide them security and arrest killer Salusad. When it was obvious that the government was not capable of providing them security, and worse, incapable of ending the impunity in their community by not arresting Salusad, Sharon Liguyon and the others decided to break camp end July. Some headed back home. For Sharon, she would not return to their community unless Butsoy is arrested and his group disbanded and disarmed.

    As this is being uploaded, information just came in that the NIPAR is intensifying its harassment of the communities and more families are expected to seek sanctuary at the Kampuhan, including the literacy-numeracy schools.

    Also, in the nearby province of Agusan del Sur, Genesis Ambason, the 23-years old secretary general of the Lumad group, Tagdumahan of San Luis, was shot dead by the paramilitary CAFGU on September 14th evening. More details are being awaited on this case.