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Culture of impunity continues: Opol indigenous people’s leader latest victim of killing

More than a year and two months after the killing of indigenous people’s leader Gilbert Paborada, another Pangalasag member falls. Rolen Langala, a member of the IP group Pangalasag was brutally murdered at 1:00 am on 01 December. A still undetermined number of stab wounds and two gun shots in the head took the life of the 35 years old farmer.

As Rolen and his companion and fellow Pangalasag member — Ruel “Don-don” Tagupa — were about to go home after enjoying the festivities for the upcoming fiesta held at the Public Plaza of Barangay (village) Bagocboc, Opol town, they were blocked at the exit by village Councilor Nestor Bahian and Ramil Salban.

Witnesses say that Councilor Bahian confronted Tagupa with words “Musokol naman kaha mo, isog mo?” (Are you already tough?), to which Tagupa replied, “Kung kami unahan, mosukol rasad mi.” (If people will hurt us first, we would retaliate).  After which, Councilor Bahian pushed Tagupa and then allegedly took out a .45 caliber pistol. Meanwhile, Rolen was assaulted by Ramil Salban and a certain Arnel.

Moments later, Langala was seen bloodied from multiple stab wounds. It was when he collapsed that, according to a witness, Councilor Bahian allegedly shot him in the head for good measure.

KALUMBAY regional lumad organization vehemently condemns the murder of Langala and the perpetration of the culture of impunity in the said areas.

Historically, for several decades already, it has been an “open secret” to the residents of Barangays Bagocboc and adjacent villages that only a gang of few and armed untouchables controlling the entire area.  Using terror as a tool, as politicians exploit their presence to secure rich votes during elections, the dynasty holds complete power until now and has victimized numbers of poor and voiceless farmers with impunity.

Ironically, under the government of BS Aquino, warlords and paramilitary groups were not dismantled. Worst now, the same warlord group is said to help facilitate the entry of mining and oil palm plantations like that of A. Brown company in the area. Those who opposed them shall suffer the consequences.

Jomorito Goaynon asserts that because of the economic interests of these firms, local bureaucrats like Councilor Bahian have become emboldened to commit rights abuses in a brutal campaign to suppress legitimate dissent aimed at defending their racketeering schemes.

Based on the results of an International Fact Finding Mission(IFFM) conducted in May of 2011, several incidents of rights abuses have occurred due to the presence the agri-business firm.

Sometime in November 2011, the house of Victoria Tabubo, 64, who was amongst those who were forced to leave by the shooting incident earlier, was burned down by A. Brown security guards. They took her coconuts and planted palm oil on the land.

On 11 and 12 February 2011, security guards of A. Brown pointed their guns at the slain Pangalasag leader Gilbert Paborada, because he was asserting their rights over the land. One of the guards even threatened Paborada that he will be shot if the farmers do not leave.

Sometime in October 2011, Councilor Jimiterio Sharot, along with plantation laborers and armed security guards went to the farm of Amadeo Payla, 66, and uprooted and destroyed his crops with chemicals while holding the latter at gunpoint. Sharot is the principal manpower provider of A. Brown.

Leoncito Mabao, 34, was held at gunpoint by around 20 armed security guards while his crops (e.g. bananas, cassava, corn and coconut) were being uprooted and destroyed with chemicals.

Kalumbay and human rights groups in the region fear for another whitewash on the part of the government’s investigation basing on record that not a single case of human rights violations complaint was given justice in the area allegedly perpetrated by local officials and their cohorts.

Last October 2013, amidst public eye, Opol town councillor Cecilio Abuhan, the husband of Bagocboc village Chairperson Margilen Abuhan was “cleared” from a raid conducted by the Criminal Investigation & Detection Group (CIDG) based on a search warrant issued by a judge on alleged illegal possession of firearms. Based on frightened villagers account, they saw sacks full of assorted high powered rifles hauled by authorities during the raid of the house of Abuhan. They were shocked the following day hearing the news that not a single firearm was found and declared.

Our call and demand:

Justice to Rolen Langala, Gilbert Paborada and all victims of human rights violations in Opol!
Dismantle paramilitary and warlord group in Opol!
Pull-out A. Brown from Opol and other places in Northern Mindanao!
No to land use conversion! Uphold food sovereignty!
Return peasants to their lands, respect the right to ancestral lands!

Datu Jomorito Guaynon
Chairperson, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization

mobile # 09354231995

Room 01, Kalinaw Lanao Center for Interfaith Resources
0016 Bougainvilla Puti, Villaverde
9200 Iligan City, Philippines
T/F: +63 (63) 223 5179 
E: [email protected] 
S: rural.missionaries

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