Bakwits: New Year’s Eve was a night of gloom at Haran

photo from Sunstar Davao October 2015

WHAT was supposed to be a lively New Year’s celebration was a night of gloom for some remaining lumad bakwits who had stayed at the UCCP Haran shelter, as they recounted their experience and what had caused them to leave their communities.

New Year’s celebration for the remaining 500 lumad bakwits in UCCP Haran could have been about offering food with dance rituals to express their thanksgiving to Manama Magbabayaw as the year starts and asking for guidance from Kalayag Ibabaso to give them abundance of harvest for the New Year.

Continue reading Bakwits: New Year’s Eve was a night of gloom at Haran

Person of the year: The Lumads

(column by Tyrone Velez, published in SunStar Davao on December 19, 2015)

I REMEMBER last June hearing a chat between high school girls walking past the Manobo lumads rallying at the Department of Education office, demanding for the re-opening of their lumad schools.

“My mom saw them on TV, she said it is right that they have to go back to school. Luoy kayo sila.”

The lumads of Mindanao in the past eight months have occupied our conversations, news, social media, hashtags and our consciousness.
We could have ignored their plight as one of the many incidents of lumads displaced by soldiers, or communities caught in a counter-insurgency war, be it in Talaingod, Kapalong, Bukidnon or Surigao. Continue reading Person of the year: The Lumads

Manobo evacuees surprise Mar Roxas with blunt answers

In Tandag City last Tuesday, former Interior Secretary and presidential aspirant Mar Roxas visited the Manobo evacuees camped at the Tandag Sports Complex.

But according to this report and video from the indie journalist group Kodao Productions, Roxas appeared to be unaware of the extent of the atrocities as he listened to a Manobo recount the murder of their school head and lumad leaders.

Roxas interrupted the lumad as he turned his attention on the person holding the camera, “Who are you?” he asked, and then requested the video to be cut off.

The report said that after this talk with the lumad, Roxas refused request of the provincial governor to continue to visit the other evacuees. Roxas said that he would ask authorities to investigate the matter and denied that the perpetrators of the massacre are part of the Philippine Army.

Read Kodao’s story here

Four-year old Manobo dies of illness in Tandag evacuation

(photo of Manobo girl sleeping at Tandag Sports Comples/ courtesy of Kilab Multimedia)

A Manobo couple, who joined thousands to flee their residence, lost a daughter after she fell ill inside the provincial sports center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur early Tuesday morning.

Rinabel, 4, the youngest daughter of the couple Maribel and Rexan Enriquez, died at around 3:00 a.m.

Maribel, in previous news reports, said her daughter had asthma and was “really sick” on Monday.

Julieto Trinidal, 29, who teaches multi-grade in the Tribal Filipino Program for Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) in San Agustin told Davao Today that Rinabel was one of their students in day care.

“Diri lang nigrabe ang sakit sa bata (The child’s sickness worsened here),” he said, referring to the evacuation center shared by almost 3,000 other evacuees.

Trinidal also lamented that they worry where to get the medicines for their children.

Read more of this account in Davao Today’s story

Save Our Schools also call for kind donations such as medicines, food, water, sleeping materials for some 2,400 Manobo evacuees now in Tandag, Surigao del Sur.

‘These people are acting like gods’: Disarm, disband militia, Surigao del Sur gov demands as evacuees near 3,000

“The Army helped in creating this militia group then they should find means to stop and put an end to them.” – Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel

Pimentel brushed the military’s professions aside, saying: “It would be hard for the Army to deny that they know these people because members of this Bagani force have been seen within their headquarters. We have seen this militia group carry between 20 to 30 high-powered firearms … where did this tribal group get their assault rifles and ammunition? Why allow this group to just walk around carrying such firearms?”

“We are appearing inutile as we are helpless to do anything. These people are acting like gods.”

Read Gov. Pimentel’s stand on this issue of paramilitary troops in Surigao del Sur here ‘These people are acting like gods’: Disarm, disband militia, Surigao del Sur gov demands as evacuees near 3,000

After killings, Manobos abandon villages

Soldiers, who introduced themselves as members of the Army’s 36th and 75th Infantry Battalions (IBs), and the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group, massed up in the village around 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

“This group was more agitated and scary. They went inside the houses without requesting permission from residents and went through our belongings. The soldiers then ordered everyone to gather near our father’s wake,” Imelda Belandres said… “They ordered us to walk towards Kilometer 16 and we have to follow because they were armed. We were scared that they will kill us,” Belandres said. On the dirt road, they were surrounded by the soldiers and militias.

“When we reached Kilometer 16, they told us not to move an inch or we will be killed. One of the soldiers introduced himself as a certain Bebot Bigante Brital of the 75th IB and he lectured us that we should not complain about mining companies coming in our lands because they will give us money,” Belandres said.

“Many of the residents tried to argue explaining that we were civilians. While this was happening, they suddenly grabbed Dionel Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo. It happened too fast. They opened fire not far from us. It was very close to our feet. So we dove for cover. After the firing stopped, we saw the dead bodies. There were blood, flesh and human brain on the ground. They killed them,” Belandres said.

Read more of Imelda’s narrative on what happened in Han-ayan in this article (click article to open) After killings, Manobos abandon villages

Watch the hip-hop, reggae concert for lumad schoolchildren this August 10

A free concert featuring Davao and Manila’s reggae and hip-hop artists would be staged this August 10 at Reggae Grill to support the continuing school services for the Manobo evacuees.

The concert is dubbed as Rise for Education and will feature Manila-based hip-hop artist BLKD and Davao hip-hop group South Breed, reggae bands Kamaggong, Lost Tribe, Nairud sa Wadab and Tortang Talong. The venue will be on Reggae Grill along JP Laurel Avenue.

Organizers of the event said no entrance fees will be charge, but instead will request the audience to come with donations such as school supplies and books for some 180 school children who are displaced due to the military occupation in their villages in Davao del Norte.

The event is held to raise awareness and support to the Manobo evacuees.

Fil-Am health workers hold clinic for Manobo evacuees

Filipino American health workers and volunteers here in an international solidarity mission held a medical clinic for the Manobo evacuees last August 2.

The volunteers are from the groups Fil-Am Healthcare Workers Association (FAWA) and the Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network based in California, who are part of the week long international solidarity mission organized by SOS Network and other cause-oriented groups helping the indigenous peoples’ rights.

One of the Fil-Am volunteers is Marietta Braganza, who work as a critical care nurse in California for 33 years. This is her third visit with the mission to the indigenous communities in Davao, but she observed this mission is different.

Her previous health missions were in the indigenous communities, but this time around the mission is in a church shelter at UCCP Haran, as some 680 Manobo people from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon sought refuge after soldiers and paramilitary occupied their villages.

Braganza noted that the stressful conditions in an unnatural environment such as the evacuation shelter contributed to the ailments among IP children and adults, as she reported many lumads suffering from upper-respiratory infection, urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

“I can’t imagine what their worries are from the day to day basis and worrying about what’s going on in their community,” she said.

Braganza and her group echoed the calls to the Philippine government to resolve the problem of the Manobo evacuees such as the pullout of troops and paramilitary in their villages so that the Manobo people can return and resume their farming and schooling activities.

The mission is organized by the  North America-Philippines Solidarity Affair (NAPSA), Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace Mindanao), Panalipdan! Youth (Youth for the Environment, Patrimony and Creation), Kabataang Mindanao Resource Center, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), Father Pops Tentorio Foundation, Salugpongan International and Save Our Schools Network (SOS).

(photo courtesy of Fr. Pops Foundation)

UN expert Chaloka Beyani urges action on Manobo evacuees

Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur (at the middle) stands beside Datu Tungig Mansimoy-at, a Manobo evacuee and tribal chieftain from Talaingod, Davao del Norte during the visit of human rights advocates in Manila last July 21. (photo from Karapatan)


Dr. Chaloka Beyani, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of the internally-displaced persons, recently made an official visit to the Philippines last July 21 to 31, including a visit to UCCP Haran in Davao City to talk with the Manobo evacuees. Prior to her visit to Davao, she met Manobo leader Datu Tungig Mansimoy-at from Salugpongan in Manila last July 21 where the tribal leader initially talked about their plight.

The rapporteur released an official statement which included the following excerpt on the Manobo communities, which ends with an urgent call to take concrete actions to protect the indigenous communities.

“It was striking to me that indigenous peoples have been particularly vulnerable to conflict-induced displacement in many regions, particularly in Mindanao. For example, I am concerned by the plight of some 700 indigenous peoples currently living in basic Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church run facilities in the city of Davao having been displaced from their ancestral homes for several months due to long-standing conflict between the government and the New People’s Army (NPA) in their region. I travelled to Davao to consult the national and local authorities and the indigenous peoples themselves on this situation. I heard from the AFP its assertion that it is seeking to protect the communities and provide services to them in conflict regions; however the displaced IPs made it clear that it is their presence and that of the paramilitary groups in their communities that continues to create anxiety amongst the indigenous communities. The community wishes to return to its lands but stressed to me that they will only feel safe to do so if the long-term militarization of their region comes to an end and they can return with guarantees of safety, dignity and protection. They described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP and harassment in the context of the on-going conflict between the AFP and the NPA. Schools have reportedly been closed and/or occupied by the AFP or Alamara, hampering the access to education of indigenous children. While tribal leaders informed me that they are not being detained against their will at the UCCP centre in Davao, as is evident by reports of their periodic return to their communities, their current situation is neither acceptable nor sustainable. It is essential to find a rapid and peaceful solution to their situation in full consultation with their legitimate leaders, with their voluntary and secure return to their ancestral lands being a high priority. I urge the Government, in consultation with indigenous peoples themselves, to give greater attention to addressing the causes of displacement whether it be due to the militarization of their areas or due to development projects.

This situation clearly demonstrates the massive and potentially irreversible impact of the on-going conflicts on displacement of such vulnerable communities who are often caught up in the conflict and suspected of involvement with armed groups. Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever. Indigenous peoples are poorly equipped to survive away from their ancestral lands and are therefore deeply affected by displacement. The needs of these vulnerable people must be assessed, with their full participation, so as to provide essential assistance for them, including durable solutions which are culturally sensitive and appropriate, when displacement has taken place. The displacement of such communities whose very lives and cultures are intimately entwined with their ancestral lands and environments must only be a matter of last resort. It is clear to me that existing legislation and institutions, including the exemplary Indigenous Peoples Rights Act cannot provide adequate protection from displacement unless fully implemented in practice. Specific provisions on the rights of indigenous peoples should be included in the IDP Law currently under consideration.”

The full text of Beyani’s statement can be found in the United Nation Human Rights website here.


Police, military and Congresswoman Catamco sued over church attack

Manobo leaders and the UCCP heads filed charges against police, military officials and Congresswoman Nancy Catamco over the attack at UCCP Haran last July 23 that left 15 injured and
traumatized children.

The complaint filed by Bishop Hamuel Tequis of UCCP Southeastern Mindanao and leaders of Salugpongan, charged North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco, Davao City Police Deputy Director Colonel Marvin Pepino, PNP Regional Intelligence Office Head Col. Filmore Escobal, and Colonel Jake Obligado of Eastern Mindanao Command as responsible for the incident.

They are charged with violations to the Revised Penal Code on seven provision including Usurpation of Authority or Official Function, Physical Injuries Inflicted in a Tumultuous Affray, Serious Physical Injuries, Qualified Trespass to Dwelling, Grave Threats, Grave Coercion, and Malicious Mischief.

Also charged are leaders of the paramilitary group Alamara which the Salugpongan leaders claimed instigated the attack. This is the same paramilitary that has been harassing them in Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

(Photos courtesy of Davao Today. Read coverage of the case filing here)
Respondents to Haran attack

Cases on Haran incident