DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 Sept) — The chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has called on what he described as “feuding” Lumads (Indigenous Peoples), to sign a peace pact to restore peace in their communities in Surigao del Sur.
In an e-mailed statement, Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Balalad, Eastmincom chief, said the forging of a peace pact or “Tampuda” will be an instrument to “win the peace in the indigenous peoples (IPs) or Lumad communities in Caraga Region.”
The call was made three weeks after the Sept. 1 killing of Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Dione Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), and Bello Sinzo in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur by some 20 unidentified armed men, believed to be members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani.
But Joyce Perpetua, spokesperson for League of Filipino Students-Southern Mindanao Region (LFS-SMR) hit the military for calling for a peace pact among the alleged “feuding” Lumads.
“There is no feud among the Lumads,” Perpetua said. “Their traditional Bagani forces were peacemakers until the AFP scattered blood and started to break the unity among Lumads,” she said, claiming the military “created and armed the paramilitary forces of Lumads” to drive a wedge between the IPs.
In a text message, Capt. Alberto Caber, chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) and spokesperson of the Eastmincom said Lumad leaders have yet to inform them when the signing of the peace pact will take place.
Balalad claimed that the move is supported by local government units (LGUs) and concerned stakeholders in the provinces of Caraga. Caraga region comprises the two Agusan and two Surigao provinces and Dinagat Island.
“We strongly support this pact among Lumads because this is the key to peace within their ancestral lands. We respect their culture,” he added.
The statement added that the Tampuda is “the highest gesture of unity among the warring tribes that is seen to bring resolution to the conflicts and misunderstanding among the Lumads.”
“Tampuda is proper and recognized among the IP communities as the key to lasting peace. The military as an institution recommends that move with the support of concerned stakeholders,” he said.
Perpetua alleged that what the military is up to is to cover up the militarization it started, which led to the killings.
Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan Southern Mindanao Region, called the peace pact “misleading and irrational” and a “futile attempt to evade the issues on human rights violations.”
“If this is about the issue on the killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and other parts of the region, then this call is misleading and irrational for what happened is not a tribal feud but extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the military themselves,” she said.
Duazo urged President Benigno Aquino III to heed the “legitimate call of the IPs to disarm and dismantle paramilitary groups and end militarization/Oplan Bayanihan that grossly violates human rights.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)