Guv's inaction on military pullout angers tribesmen

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By CHRIS PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
September 20, 2019

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LIANGA, Surigao del Sur--Lumad residents  (indigenous peoples) in Km. 9 sub village expressed dismay over the inaction of Gov. Alexander Pimentel on their plea for the pullout of Army soldiers in their communities.

In a statement,the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) which supports the plight of the lumads, said the presence of Army soldiers in Km. 9 since August 16 have disturbed anew their peaceful living and disrupted their already productive farming activities.

Mapasu said the deployment of some 60 Army soldiers of 3rg Special Forces Battalion an, 75th Infantry Battalion and 26th Infantry Battalion is a clear violation of an agreement reached in July 30, 2018 that the military will no longer set up detachments within the neighbouring lumad communities and that soldiers are not allowed to live in civilian homes and community centers.

The agreement which were signed by  provincial and local officials, lumad leaders, priests, nuns, pastors and military officials at the Sanggunian Bayan session hall in San Agustin town was settled to appease hundreds of lumad evacuees who were poised to stage a long walk towards the Provincial Sports Complex in Tandag City.

But Pimentel told some 100 lumad leaders during the dialogue at the town hall here in September 11that he could not  interfere with their request to prohibit the presence of Army soldiers in their communities since Mindanao is still under martial law and the implementation of Executive Order 70 by President Rodrigo Duterte, institutionalizing a “whole of nation” approach with the creation of  national task force to end the communist armed conflict.

1Lt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, civil military officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said Km. 9 community is one of the most affected by the New Peoples Army led “taktikang bakwit” where they use the lumads as human shields to evade government forces.

Punsalan, citing an admission from a Km. 9 when he interviewed him, said “taktikang bakwit” is an orchestrated strategy organized by Mapasu to gain sympathy from international funding organizations which are potential donors who would provice cash donations to the group as part of international solidarity works.

The lumads firm call for a total military pull out in their communities was spark from their disdain when they were told by Lt. Col. Joey Baybayan, commanding officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, that they should move on from their sad ordeals in the past on the killings of their leaders and harassments from the constant evacuations almost every year since 2011.

“The statement of Col. Baybayan is a manifestation of his disrespect  to the lumads,” said a Mapasu statement.

Mapasu will be also sending a petition to local and provincial officials to heed their call to end militarization of their communities of whom farmers have become productive on their produce for more than a year with the absence of the government soldiers.

Mapasu noted production of the lumad farmers have increased by threefold since 2016 while living in a peaceful and quiet environment that they already sell their produce in the neighbouring towns and even reaching the progressive town of San Francisco in Agusan del Sur.


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