CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/ 31 August)—Nearly a month after at least 20 members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) allegedly raided the community of slain indigenous peoples’ leader Jimmy Liguyon for cash and gold, lumad residents of a hinterland barangay in San Fernando town, Bukidnon province have sought refuge at the provincial capitol grounds in Malaybalay City on Thursday evening.
In an e-mailed statement, Datu Nilo Cabungcol, chairperson of Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO), said that several lumad families set up a camp at the provincial capitol anew “despite the refusal of the provincial government.”
Drenched by rain, Cabungcol said that policemen tried to stop them from setting the camp Thursday night.
In a phone interview Friday, Tessie Ombo, a small scale mining financier and a member of KASILO, alleged that on August 2, Alde “Butsoy” Salusad went to their mining area in Sitio Kiranggol, Barangay Dao in San Fernando town and demanded money from her.
“I was not able to give him (Salusad) the money since I already distributed it to the miners. He suddenly fired his rifle and ordered me to gather the miners,” Ombo added, noting that Salusad was accompanied by 10 armed men.
Salusad heads the paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army Reform. He is the primary suspect in the killing of then Dao village chairperson Jimmy Liguyon.
At 2 p.m. the same day, Ombo said that Ben Salusad, father of Alde Salusad, arrived with at least 20 armed CAFGUs.
Ombo said they were shocked when the militiamen allegedly started ransacking the miners’ belongings for money and gold, instead of responding to the indiscriminate firing incident.
“They threatened to take my husband away. I had no choice but to surrender the 12 grams of gold,” Ombo said.
She said that the older Salusad also allegedly threatened to kill her if she will not stop financing the small-scale miners in the area.
The younger Salusad had admitted to the killing of Liguyon in a radio interview in Bukidnon. There is a pending arrest warrant against him.
Liguyon, a Matigsalog-Manobo tribesman and also the vice chairperson of KASILO, was shot inside his residence in Barangay Dao by two armed men last March 5.
Datu Jomorito Guaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay, a region-wide federation of lumad organizations, said they are dismayed by the apparent effort of the provincial government to prevent them from camping out.
He urged them to focus their efforts at arresting Salusad.
“We are so tired of saying that the government forces are inutile in solving the conflicts in the remote areas of Bukidnon. The relatives of Jimmy Liguyon and residents of Barangay Dao went home disappointed, but with a small hope that Alde Salusad’s warrant of arrest would, at least, be a start in making these paramilitary groups accountable for the atrocities they have committed to the relatives of Liguyon and the residents of Dao,” Guaynon said in the dialect.
Stressing they will exhaust all legal remedies, Guaynon said they will insist in setting up a “temporary refugee camp in the middle of the province.”
As of press time Friday, Bukidnon Vice Governor Jose Maria Zubiri and Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, could not be reached for comments. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)