Indigenous families once more seek sanctuary at the provincial capitol grounds of Bukidnon as paramilitary groups continue to mock government authority in the hinterlands. Despite the refusal of the provincial government to have them set up camp again, residents of Sitio Kiranggol, Barangay Dao of San Fernando, Bukidnon stood in the rain, trying to gain a semblance of security by setting up the camp—to which the policemen are trying to obstruct since last night.
They are untouchable – that is the message of both Alde ‘Butsoy’ Salusad, leader of the New Indigenous Peoples Army Reform (NIPAR) and Ben ‘Nonong’ Salusad, leader of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU) deployed in San Fernando, Bukidnon to the media as they control the thriving small-scale industry in the municipality.
According to the narrative of a recent victim of the Salusads, on August 2, 2012, Alde Salusad went to the small-scale mining area in sitio Kiranggol, Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon. He then demanded for Tessie Ombo, the financer of some miners, to hand him the money for financing. But Tessie said she had already distributed it to the miners. Alde, who was then with ten other armed men, proceeded to fire his rifle ordering Tessie to have the miners come together.
At 2 that afternoon, Ben Salusad, with more than 20 members of the CAFGU, arrived. Instead of helping the people, Ben’s troop ransacked the belongings of the miners, looking for money and gold. Tessie was forced to surrender the 12 grams she had after they threatened to take her husband. She was then threatened that if she wouldn’t stop financing the miners, she would be killed. The Salusads have two people, Eper Manyangcal and Monina Tiwanan, monopolizing the buying of the gold in the province.
“We are so tired of saying that the government forces are inutile in solving conflicts in the remote areas of Bukidnon,” said Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization. “So how can we rephrase this fact? We set up again a protest camp. Relatives of Jimmy Liguyon and members of Dao went home broken-hearted, but with some small hope that the warrant of arrest for Alde Salusad was at least a start against the paramilitaries. But it didn’t serve them justice and the fact that Salusad and his group are able to continue harassing communities in San Fernando just enforces his claim that they are invincible.”
The organization plans to see through the exhaustion of legal procedures together with the persistence of a protest camp right in the middle of the province. “We saw what happened when the people came home,” said Goaynon. “It is very easy to kill an issue as long as people won’t see physical testimonies.”
“And the provincial government and its policemen are exerting all their effort to block the establishment of the camp-out instead of employing their energies to arrest Alde Salusad,” Goaynon commented.#
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