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Tribal militiamen gather, vow to fight NPA

/ 12:50 AM March 02, 2016
STUDENTS and indigenous peoples from Mindanao carry torches during a march in Manila recently against attacks on “lumad” communities allegedly by militias being backed by the military. INQUIRER PHOTO

STUDENTS and indigenous peoples from Mindanao carry torches during a march in Manila recently against attacks on “lumad” communities allegedly by militias being backed by the military. INQUIRER PHOTO

KIDAPAWAN CITY—At least 500 members of two militias being accused of attacks on “lumad” communities in several provinces in Mindanao converged in North Cotabato province over the weekend amid the military’s continued denial of the militias’ existence.

Datu Alim Bandara, a top leader of one of the militias that calls itself Alamara, said those who attended the gathering are tribal warriors and leaders from North Cotabato and two other provinces—Bukidnon and Davao del Norte.

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Bandara, who is based in North Cotabato, said the gathering on Saturday, held in Barangay Kibia in Matalam town, was organized to enable the tribal warriors and leaders to renew their loyalty to the armed tribal groups that had sworn to defend ancestral domain.

“We will fight any armed group that wants to take away from us our ancestral domain lands,” said Bandara.

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“We will use our traditional arms to ensure the protection of our tribes,” he said.

Bandara said at least 102 ancestral domain areas in Mindanao had already been occupied by the New People’s Army (NPA) and the rebels are also using the lumad in their fight against the government.

He said the Alamara and another tribal militia, Bagani, will work hard to prevent the rebels from encroaching on more areas.

“We don’t want them in our place,” he said.

Bandara, who spoke on behalf of the armed tribal groups, said some villages in the towns of Matalam, President Roxas, Arakan and Magpet in North Cotabato are in danger of being influenced by the NPA and the tribal militias want to stop it by fighting the rebels.

He said  Alamara and Bagani warriors might not have powerful weapons against the rebels but they have spears, machetes, bows and arrows.

“We will defend our territory using traditional arms and with the blessing of our (deities),” Bandara said.

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He said the tribal warriors could not just sit down and watch their ancestral domains fall into the hands of rebels and other groups, such as those wanting the lumad out so that their lands can be converted into agricultural plantations.

Militants and human rights groups have blamed the Alamara and the Bagani for killings and increasing violence in indigenous peoples communities in several areas in Mindanao.

The human rights group Karapatan said the tribal warriors, which are being backed by the military, are responsible for killings occurring in tribal communities, such as the

Sept. 1 murders of Emerito Samarca, director of an alternative school in Surigao del Sur province, and two others.

The military has consistently denied the existence of the tribal armed groups, which are known for their counterinsurgency advocacy. Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Communities, Fight, lumad, militiamen, Mindanao, New People’s Army, North Cotabato, NPA, Provinces, Tribe
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