Gov seeks probe of ‘lumad’ leader’s murder amid peace talks
MATI CITY—Davao Oriental Gov. Nelson Dayanghirang has called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) panels to investigate the killing of a “lumad” leader in Caraga town on Dec. 30.
The New People’s Army (NPA), in a statement, said it was planning to disarm Mandaya tribal chieftain Datu Copertino Banugan and his men but the rebels were forced to kill him, his brother Ramon and a relative, Benny Banugan, because they fought back.
But Dayanghirang said no such NPA operation should have been conducted because of the ongoing ceasefire and peace talks.
The peace panels are scheduled to hold the third round of the talks in Rome later this month. A ceasefire, unilaterally declared by the NDFP and the government, has been holding for more than two months now.
“Why do it when there is a ceasefire? Why do it in the middle of the peace talks?” Dayanghirang said in an interview with the Inquirer on Friday.
Col. Michelle Anayron, chief of the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion, said the NPA’s claim that it killed Banugan as an act of self-defense was “nothing but a lame excuse.”
“How can they call it self-defense? They tried to disarm him, it was only natural that [Banugan] would resist,” Anayron told the Inquirer.
Anayron said electricity supply in Banugan’s house was cut off before the attack. Authorities, he said, recovered three gallons of gasoline and unexploded Molotov bombs from the crime site.
Anayron also said the military could not launch pursuit operations against the rebels because of the ongoing ceasefire.
“Such violence was unwarranted. This is contrary to what they (rebels) want. They say they want peace talks and yet they perpetrate violent acts,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion, said.
Dayanghirang said Banugan’s death is a “huge loss to the peace-loving Mandaya people of Davao Oriental.”
Banugan was a leader of a Mandaya community in upland village of Pichon in Caraga town. Last year, the Inquirer visited Pichon’s subvillage of Sangab during its Kalidugan Festival. Sangab is one of 13 Pichon subvillages comprising CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title)-01.
Awarded to the tribe in 1997 and covering about 14,000 hectares, CADT-01 is the first such title given to indigenous communities in Southern Mindanao. Residents have opposed the entry of NPA rebels in their land. —NICO ALCONABA
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