Son of Subanen tribal chief killed in ambushBy Tito Fiel and Julie Alipala
BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur—The young son of a Subanen tribal chieftain was killed Tuesday morning in an alleged ambush by gunmen targeting his father, who has been leading the campaign to protect his tribe’s ancestral domain rights in Zamboanga del Sur.
Lucenio Manda, also chair of Barangay Conacon here, was accompanying his son, Jordan, to the school when they were fired upon by unidentified assailants in Barangay Boboan Bayog.
“My son is dead. While I am wounded. I’m now okay,” Manda told the Inquirer by phone.
Police authorities said they were still investigating the incident.
Major General Rainier Cruz, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur, said based on the report reaching him, at least five armed men were behind the attempt to kill the elder Manda.
Cruz said Manda was driving his son to school on a motorcycle from Conacon when they were waylaid between the villages of Matin-ao and Datagan.
“(Manda) sustained a superficial gunshot wound on the left portion of his back,” he said.
Cruz said a team of soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Victor Tanggawhon Jr. were dispatched to pursue the assailants.
Manda told the Inquirer that he and his son had stayed overnight at their farmhouse in Lower Conacon.
“My son requested that we spend the night in our farm house so he can collect many spiders,” Manda said.
“This morning, we woke up early so I can bring him to school. We didn’t know there were already armed men waiting for us,” he said.
By his reckoning, Manda said there were about eight gunmen but he could not identify the attackers “because their faces were covered.”
He could not think of any reason why somebody would try to kill him, he said.
“I and the villagers are already in good terms after we addressed issues over my group’s opposition to the operation of some mining companies here,” said Manda, who heads the Pigsalabukan Gukom di Bayog.
Recently, Manda led a group of Subanen chieftains in calling for a moratorium on all forms of mining in their claimed ancestral domains until they have secured their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) and Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP), the Alyansa Tigil Mina said in a statement.
Manda is also leading an effort to strengthen and unify the efforts of the Subanens in the Central Zamboanga Peninsula to claim and protect their remaining ancestral domain, ATM said.
“He, along with Catholic bishops and concerned groups, has petitioned for a writ of kalikasan in a bid to protect the Pinukis Range Forest, described as among the last untouched forest region in the Zamboanga Peninsula but was included in the mining claims of several companies,” ATM added.
The militant anti-mining group said Manda’s fight for ancestral domain rights could be behind the ambush.
“Timuay Manda has been leading his tribe in claiming and protecting their ancestral domain in the last 10 years,” ATM said.
The militant group said in 2002, Timuay Giovanni Umbang was also killed because of his campaign for ancestral domain. Manda and Umbag were cousins.