The paramilitary group, Wild Dogs, attacked a Higaonon community in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur after staff of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) asked permission for the reopening of their Literacy and Numeracy (Lit-Num) School in the the municipality.
On June 10, 2011, Melissa Amado-Comiso, the coordinator of the Lit-Num program, accompanied by Datu Man-altuwan, Datu Mantapaos Man-atibay, Benhul Hagonoy, Negosyon Lagaolao, Carolina Namatidong and Kelly Sendatol, talked to Nida Manpatilan, the mayor of Esperanza. During their visit, Nida’s husband, Deo S. Manpatilan who is also the immediate former mayor of Esperanza, was there and accused the Lit-Num school to have taught children the ideas and songs of the Communist New Peoples Army. He further insisted that should the community want development, they should accept mining companies which could provide them with schools and other services.
Manpatilan went as far as to say that the community of Simontanan, where the Lit-Num school is to be reopened, will cause the destruction of their entire barangay. Manpatilan is the head of Wild Dogs, its members trained under the National Internal Security Program (NISP) of Gloria Arroyo’s administration, and had been using the group to force communities in Esperanza to acknowledge his Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and recognize him as the head of the Higaonon communities in the municipality. Communities, including Sitio Simontanan, however, refused to concede their Ancestral Domains to Manpatilan as they continue to resist the entry of mining companies and logging concessions into their lands.
These communities have, for years, been targets of military operations, having been branded as supporters of the New Peoples Army. The RMP had previously initiated a Literacy and Numeracy school to capacitate the locals in knowing and defending their rights, to enable them to participate in peace-building processes, and to protect them from being taken advantage. However, due to the red-baiting and out of fear of being subjected to military interrogations, volunteer teachers were not able to sustain their work. The other Lit-Num schools sponsored by the RMP throughout the region experienced similar situations – some schools even used as camps by the military during operations. Only recently, the RMP decided to reopen its Lit-Num schools in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon hoping that the change of government allows space for such community-based initiatives.
However, the subsequent events in Sitio Simontanan closes these possibilities. On June 30, at around 5 in the morning, members of the Wild Dogs, some of whom community members have identified as Laging Binsalan, Tala Mansinugdan, Edik Bat-ongan and a certain ‘Ihag’, massacred the family of Arpe Belayong otherwise known as Datu Lapugotan. Datu Lapugotan, 40 years old, and Sulte ‘Amang’ San-ogan, a 21 year old deaf-mute, were instantly killed. Two of Datu Lapugotan’s children, Michelle, 14 years old and Longlong, 6 were hit on the legs. With their mother, they ran to the nearby forest and hid there for days.
Datu Lapugotan is the younger brother of Datu Mampaagi who was similarly killed by members of Task Force Gantangan, a Lumad armed group created by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2008. Datu Mampaagi was among the founding members of the Higaonon community organization Linundigan, which means ‘the source of all the good traditions, laws and customs’ and which actively campaigned against extractive operations in their Ancestral Domain.
These incidents clearly show what the government means by ‘development’. What happened was no different from the killings, massacres, tortures and harassments experienced by the Lumads in the previous administration. We condemn the continuing repression of the Indigenous Peoples! We condemn the attack on the community which has been trying to capacitate themselves through peace-building efforts such as reopening their Literacy and Numeracy school!
For more information, you may contact the urgent alert sources below:
RURAL MISSIONARIES OF THE PHILIPPINES
Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR)
P.O. Box 41324, 9200 Iligan City, PHILIPPINES
Telefax. No: +63-223-5179
E-mail address: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
KALUMBAY Regional Lumad Organization
c/o Ethnic Groups Development Resource Center (EGDRC)
Ilocos St., Aluba Phase II, Macasandig
9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
Tel Nos: +63 (88) 310 8253
E-mail Address: email@example.com