Duterte to supervise Manobos’ return to Surigao Sur – priest
SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur – President Duterte is expected to personally supervise the planned return of the more than 3,000 Manobo evacuees to their homes in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur on Sept. 2.
Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines, convenor of Friends of the Lumad in Caraga, said he was hopeful that the President would make good his commitment to be in Tandag City on that day based on what they discussed in their meeting in Malacañang on Aug. 15.
“The President himself had assured us during our meeting that he will personally supervise the safe return of the lumad (indigenous people) back to their communities,” Villasanta said.
The scheduled homecoming of the displaced lumads will happen exactly a year and a day after they were forced to leave their communities when members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani killed three lumad leaders in the village of Diatagon town on Sept. 1, 2015.
Col. Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the 75th Infantry Battalion, has assured all parties concerned that his troops will pull out from their Army camp in Sitio Han-ayan once the Manobos notify the Army on the exact date of their return.
Purisima said the Army would just assist the residents upon their return and would turn over Sitio (subvillage) Han-ayan to ensure their safety and show them that the military has not damaged any of their properties.
“Even before, we are ready to assist them. This is our mandate to protect the civilians from any harm,” he said.
The Army official said they would discuss the details of the turnover and military pullout in Han-ayan during their meeting with the representatives of the lumad, including Villasanta, on Tuesday.
He denied claims from Malahutayong Pakigbisog sa mga Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) or the Mapasu, an indigenous peoples’ organization, that his men had ransacked the houses and damaged the facilities of the lumad school Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev).
“There is no truth to that. In fact, we guarded Han-ayan from anybody who would infiltrate the community while the residents were away,” Purisima said.
But Mapasu said members of the group that visited the site on August 24 were “enraged upon seeing the large military camps in our communities in Kilometer 9 and Han-ayan.” The ocular inspection in 11 communities was initiated by the provincial government.
“Our hearts were crushed upon seeing our houses damaged, our once productive farms covered with weeds and our schools rendered unusable,” Mapasu said in a statement.
The lumads left their homes last year after three lumad leaders, Dionel Campus; Emerito Samarca, administrator of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); and Juvello “Bello” Sinzo were shot and killed by the Magahat-Bagani militiamen in Han-ayan.
Mapasu’s strong opposition to the entry of logging and mining companies in Lianga might have drawn the ire of the Magahat-Bagani militiamen, an armed anti-communist group led by Datu Calpet Egua. The military has also branded Mapasu as a communist front.
Then Gov. Johnny Pimentel said the Magahat-Bagani was created by the military, an accusation that the Armed Forces of the Philippines had denied.
Almost a year after the killings, no suspect has been arrested, even as the government dangled a P3.6-million bounty for the heads of suspected militia leaders Bobby and Loloy Tejero and Margarito Layno. SFM/rga
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