Leody de Guzman nearly hit, 5 hurt as gunfire greets sortie
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Misamis Oriental, Philippines — Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) presidential candidate Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman cheated death on Tuesday noon as security guards of a pineapple plantation in Quezon, Bukidnon, fired on members of the Manobo-Pulangihon indigenous tribe who were trying to occupy a portion of their claimed ancestral domain.
According to Lt. Col. Michelle Olaivar, public information officer of the Philippine National Police Regional Office 10, the shooting happened around 12:20 p.m. and the Quezon Municipal Police Station was alerted 10 minutes later.
De Guzman, along with senatorial aspirants Roy Cabonegro and David D’Angelo, accompanied the tribal families as they occupied some 4 hectares of land that was not being used for growing pineapple. The candidates dropped by the Manobo community as part of their political party’s Mindanao sortie.
In the first volley of gunfire, farmer organizer Nannie Abela was hit in the chest. He was standing a foot away from De Guzman.
De Guzman, at a press conference via Zoom on Tuesday, said it was hard to determine if he was being targeted by the gunmen.
A video taken by D’Angelo and broadcast via Facebook Live showed the tribe members, with their children and elderlies, walking for some 10 minutes from their current temporary homes along the road in Barangay Butong toward the land they would like to settle in.
After some clearing activities, the group saw plantation security guards approaching, prompting them to assemble several leaders who were earlier designated as the negotiating panel to deal with them.
A few minutes later, continuous shots were heard and people were seen scrambling to safety as their leaders shouted instructions for all of them to lie on the ground.
D’Angelo’s video captured about three minutes of continued firing, followed by another two minutes of sporadic shooting.
Aside from Abela, also wounded were four tribal members—Bae Charita Anglao del Socorro, Datu Didilusan Arroyo, Orlando Lingaolingao and Eger Dabatian.
They were brought to a local hospital for treatment of their wounds, believed inflicted by shotgun. The victims had been discharged with the exception of Abela, who is to undergo an X-ray exam to determine if a bullet was still in his body.
“We condemn without qualification this unprovoked shooting. This must not be tolerated,” said PLM chair and vice presidential bet Walden Bello.
Bello described the perpetrators as “armed goons of (Quezon Mayor Pablo) Lorenzo.”
A spot report obtained by the Inquirer from the Quezon municipal police station said the victims “forcibly entered the premises” of the pineapple plantation that has links to Lorenzo.
Malacañang denounced the Bukidnon incident and called on local authorities to investigate the shooting.
“Violence has no place in any civilized society and we condemn the incident in Bukidnon where gunshots were allegedly fired against the camp of Ka Leody de Guzman,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.
“We urge the local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and prosecute those behind this dastardly act,” he said.
Chair Saidamen Pangarungan of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the poll body would investigate the shooting incident in Bukidnon as well as in Lanao del Sur and has offered to increase the security detail of presidential and vice presidential candidates if they ask and “based on their need.”
“I condemn the use of violence connected to the May 9, 2022, national and local elections. This commission will investigate reports of shooting both in Bukidnon and Lanao,” he said in a statement Tuesday night.
“This is a cowardly act that should be condemned by peace-loving Filipinos. If this is an election-related incident, count the Comelec in to use all our powers to get to the bottom of this and hold accountable the culprits and face the full force of the law,” added Comelec Commissioner George Garcia.
“While the Comelec is in the process of investigation, we are offering additional security detail to every presidential and vice presidential candidates upon their request,” Pangarungan added.
In a statement, PNP public information office chief Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba said they were still investigating the incident, but admitted they had no suspects yet.
The tribe has claimed the 995-ha estate as their ancestral domain. Although it has yet to obtain a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT), Cabonegro said they have a certificate of ancestral domain claim, which is a recognition of their rights over it under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
However, the area was also covered by a forest land grazing management agreement (FLGMA) granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
As agribusiness activities expanded, armed men drove some 1,000 tribal families out of the land in 2017. Most of them set up makeshift shelters along the road, exposing them to hazards from the large volume of passing trucks and other vehicles, apart from the lack of basic necessities, such as water.
Hopes brightened for the tribe after the FLGMA expired in 2018 and its nonrenewal by the DENR, making the land now under the disposal of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Authorities have advised the tribe to wait for the CADT issuance before occupying the estate.
In September last year, tired of the long wait, the tribe planned to occupy the land so they could restart their lives.
–REPORTS FROM DIVINA M. SUSON, JIGGER J. JERUSALEM, RYAN D. ROSAURO, JEROME ANING, DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN, AND DEXTER CABALAZA
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