By RONALYN V. OLEA
The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has revived the vigilante group ‘Alsa Lumad’ in its campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA).
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been waging a revolution for more than four decades.
The setting up of paramilitary forces with lumad-sounding names like Bagani force, the Alimaong tribal justice, Magahat and Alamara is part of the Task Force Gantangan, a component of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL). The OBL has been extended by the Aquino administration until January 2011 and the Davao region is one of the priority areas of the OBL. In its objective to wipe out the insurgency problem, the AFP has resorted to arming indigenous peoples to fight the NPA.
In other areas, a Barangay Defense System (BDS) is also being set up.
In a statement sent through email, Ka Parago of the NPA’s Medardo Arce Command, criticized B/Gen. Eduardo del Rosario of the 10th ID for resuscitating the ‘Alsa’ Lumad campaign and for instigating ‘pangayaw’ (tribal vendetta).
The Alsa Lumad, a rehash of the 80s counter-revolutionary Alsa Masa, has been notorious for human rights violations, Parago said.
‘Pangayaw’ , Parago said, has been the convenient pretext to legitimize fascist repression among the people in Paquibato, Davao City. Parago said del Rosario (baptized as Datu Limbuttong) ‘has employed corrupted Lumad tribal dealers in order to divide the Lumad people and the Visayan settlers.’
In 2000, Del Rosario declared that Paquibato district would be NPA-free by the year 2005 using the ‘Alsa’ lumad psywar concept — pitting lumad against lumad and non-Lumad settlers in the AFP’s counter revolutionary war.
Parago said the AFP, this time, is using ‘Datu’ Ruben Labawan to sow terror among the lumads. “Labawan’s concept of tribal justice as inspired by his mentor Datu Limbuttong is a mockery of the genuine tradition of the Lumads,” Parago said.
Parago said at around 10 am, August 12, two farmers were strafed in Saladiyoy, Monteflor, Barangay Colosas, Paquibato District by assailants armed with Garand rifles. Farmers Angelino Gentorales and Julius Tamondes were about to gather their farm animals in preparation for evacuation to the village center. They feared for their safety after Labawan’s group announced the impending “pangayaw.” Tamondes was killed on the spot while Gentorales was able to elude the Task Force Gantangan Bagani goons. The 1003rd Brigade-AFP troops, which del Rosario heads, were at the area conducting combat operations but did not respond to the shooting incident. Labawan and the AFP, Parago said, have merely institutionalized “a corrupt and twisted form of commercialized transaction bordering on outright extortion in the name of big capitalist plunderers in our soils.”
“The livelihood of the people in Paquibato is vastly affected as they were forced to evacuate to the district center. Children were not able to attend their classes. This scenario is no different from the past when the AFP-backed Alamara and lumad bandits declared ‘pangayaw’ and killed civilians in cold-blood,” Parago said.
Labawan’s ‘pangayaw’ is part of the AFP’s Task Force Gantangan which aims to contain the people in their communities, organize them into the so-called Integrated Tribal Defense Force also known as the Cafgu/Alamara, an anti-Communist vigilante group, and to organize them as part of the Oplan Bantay Laya’s Barangay Defense System. “Del Rosario supplies high-powered rifles, logistics, military equipment and food supplies, among others, to the AFP’s ‘Bagani’ warriors and lumad liquidation squad led by Datu Labawan and Datu Arthur Ali. The military provides arms to the lumads, and has enlisted and trained even lumad minors to be Cafgus in sitio Damilag, Barangay Mapula from May to July this year. Last April, the military has launched a psywar ‘information and education’ drive for ‘Alsa’ Lumad in the districts of Paquibato, Calinan, Marilog and Baguio. It dispersed its 168-armed lumads in the 12 patrol bases within the district of Paquibato,” Parago said.
“The military has been arming civilians, using them as pawns in their counter-insurgency campaign, which violates laws and international instruments protecting human rights,” Diolito Diarog, spokesperson of Pasaka, Regional Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, said in a separate statement.
Diarog said the pangayaw being waged by Labawan is for selfish interests, saying that Labawan is claiming nearly 32,000 hectares of land in Paquibato by way of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC). Diarog said Labawan reportedly plans to sell the land to a Canadian firm for a cacao and banana plantation project. Pasaka also called on the immediate intervention of the Davao City government and urged the City Council to conduct a probe on the reported atrocities in Paquibato District. The City Council conducted an investigation a few years ago on the emergence of Alamara and other paramilitary lumad groups organized by the AFP for counter-insurgency.
“We call on the Davao City Council to conduct immediate intervention and investigation on the recent Paquibato conflict and call for the disarming of the Alamara, Bagani Forces, BDS, and other lumad paramilitary groups in view of the peoples’ interest and welfare as well as their aspiration for genuine peace in their communities,”
“The AFP has been irreverent in bastardizing lumad culture, and this recent pangayaw waged by Labawan only proves their scheme of manipulating the lumads,” Diarog said.
“The Alsa Lumad campaign is bound to fail, as history has already exposed its grossly anti-people and anti-Lumad character,” said Parago.