Without Army escorts, Manobo folk go home
LIANGA, Surigao del Sur—Some 2,000 Manobo people who fled their homes out of fear after the killing of their tribal leader started returning to their communities on Tuesday, following an agreement that no Army soldiers and policemen would be allowed to escort them.
Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said the agreement was reached during a meeting on Monday among representatives of Gov. Johnny Pimentel, tribal leaders of the affected communities, local officials and Army and police officials.
They all concurred to recognize a previous arrangement that the military would not be allowed to set up detachments and engage in armed hostilities near the civilian populace, said Villasanta, who also chairs Tribal Pilipino Program of Surigao del Sur that established tribal schools in the area.
Leaders of Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Sustained Campaign for the Next Generation), or Mapasu, cited a written agreement in 2009 between them and Col. Henry Robinson, then head of the 29th Infantry Battalion, for the Army not to conduct its community organizing for peace and development program.
On Oct. 24, Mapasu leader Henry Alameda was killed by armed men believed to be tribal militiamen of Datu Calpet Egua and Army soldiers, forcing the “lumad” (indigenous) residents to leave their 14 neighboring communities and stay for over a week at the gymnasium of Barangay Diatagon here.
Alameda was buried on Monday at the public cemetery in Diatagon.
Bertoldo Garay, Mapasu council member, said the killers could have targeted Alameda because he had opposed Egua’s attempts to recruit villagers to join his ragtag group, Bagani.
Col. Gregory Cayetano, commander of 401st Army Brigade, has challenged Mapasu leaders to file charges against Egua’s men. He disowned the paramilitary group as among those allowed to fight communist rebels.
He did not directly answer if Army soldiers were involved in the abuses. Chris V. Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao
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