Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur — 17 members of the Banwaon indigenous group, including three minors, were reportedly harassed and intimidated in Sitio Kimambucayan on October 5, 2015.
At around 6:00 that morning, three minors living[i] in the Sitio left their house to gather and haul logs. On the way, they noticed an armed man tailing them. Suddenly, a man in camouflage uniform stepped in their path, pointed his rifle at them, and ordered them to lie on the ground.
Fifteen other armed men then stepped out from behind bushes and trees. According to Lolong (not his real name), the men were wearing badges of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the number 23 on the badge. The military unit operating in the area is the 23rd Infantry Battalion.
They were brought to a place away from the trail. The suspected military men kept asking them of the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA). A member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) they identified as Mama Manpinsahan told them, “Kun itug-an ninyo asa ang mga NPA buhian namo mo, kun dili kuyugon namo mo sa operation.(If you will tell us where the NPAs are, we will set you free, if not, we will bring you along in our operations.)”
The three were also accused of being NPA supporters and were assigned names: ‘Abe’, ‘Caloy’, and ‘Baking’. They were told that these were their names as NPA supporters. They were also asked of a certain Kay, allegedly a member of the NPA. They replied that they didn’t know a person by that name. But an armed man they did not recognize insisted, “It’s impossible, you should know this person because you’ve been living here.”
While they were interrogated, 14 other Lumads who happened to pass by were also detained. The same questions were asked of them.
At around 11:30am, the military men were having lunch when suddenly a gunshot rang out. They immediately lay face down. With the military men’s attention directed elsewhere, the Lumads took the opportunity to escape.
The Banwaon in San Luis are members of Tagdumahan, an indigenous people’s organization in Agusan del Sur. The main objective of the organization is the protection of their ancestral domain, resisting the entry of extractive companies that would destroy their environment. Members of Tagdumahan have complained of the military operations in their community since September last year.
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Katungod Lumad Alert is published by the ‘Higala sa Lumad’ [Friends of the Lumad] Network.
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