Duterte, guv: Stop Army ops in 11 lumad sitios

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

THE residents of Talaingod in Davao del Norte belonging to the Ata-Manobo tribe will be escorted by civilian government officials on May 1 and 2 to bring them home following the agreement that military operations in 11 sitios of barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod will be suspended.

This was the agreement reached on Monday in a meeting that started at 3:15 p.m. and was still ongoing as of presstime at the Grand Men Send Hotel in Davao City.

The meeting was attended by the Talaingod evacuees, the leaders of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines who have been giving shelter to the lumads since April 4 in Davao City, and local and military officials, with Mayor Duterte Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario, and Talaingod Mayor Basilio A. Libayao.


At the same time, another meeting was going on in a different function room regarding a similar problem in Paquibato District of Davao City, but this meeting started a bit later.

The Talaingod lumads belonging to the Ata-Manobo tribe led by the Salugpongan Ta Tatanu Ig Kanogon (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land) and Pasaka (Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao) remained firm in their stand that they will only go back to their villages if the military stop their operations.

Datu Dulomon Dawsay, spokesperson of the evacuees said, the military have set up camps in sitio Dolianog, Tulugan, and Igang in barangay Pamla Gil, Talaingod.

Colonel Harold Cabreros, commander of the Philippine Army's 1003rd Brigade, in his presentation said that the reason they are in the area is because of an NPA encampment there, as he showed slides of a recent operations where they were even able to recover cash believed to be fund of the rebels.

Duterte said that the military and the rebels will always be where the other are, but since the problem involves evacuees, then he, with the concurrence of Gov. del Rosario, can only order the military to suspend operations in order to bring the residents home safely.

He said the best he can do with regards the rebels is to appeal to them to suspend operations in Talaingod as well.

In an interview with del Rosario around 6 p.m. Monday, he said, that it was agreed on that the military will pack up their operations in all 11 sitios where they are presently encamped today and that he will expect no military camps there, including those in the barangay center and schools.

The evacuees will then be escorted solely by civilian officials on May 1-2.

He said it was agreed that not one policeman or military will escort the local officials who will be escorting the evacuees to their homes.

Mayor Libayao, meanwhile, assured that should the residents not want to return to their remote villages, their town has relief assistance ready for them.

The lumads who have sought refuge in the city claim aerial bombing, massive harassment, and encampment in places where soldiers were not supposed to put up camps.

Libayao had earlier denied these claims but insists it is the rebels’ presence in the area that has made it necessary for the military to operate there.

Beyond the claims and counter-claims, Mayor Duterte raised his appeal again for the resumption of peace negotiations between the communist rebels and the National Government to bring peace to areas like Talaingod, that are victimized by the never-ending conflict.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 30, 2014.

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