DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 January) – A National Living Treasure, a forerunner of interfaith dialogue in Mindanao, a retired bishop, a patriarch of a political dynasty, a founder of a breakaway Moro group, a commander of the New People’s Army and Philippine Eagle Pamana (Heritage) were among Mindanawons who passed away in 2015.
Lang Dulay, T’boli Dreamweaver, National Living Treasure
Dreamweaver Lang Dulay, a T’boli master weaver and National Living Treasure lapsed into a coma in January following a stroke, spent a month in the hospital and returned to her home in Sitio Tukolefa, Barangay Lamdalag in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato where she passed away at around 3 p.m. on April 30. She was 91.
Known for her contributions in the preservation of the T’boli culture through the tribe’s famed T’nalak fabric, she was conferred the National Living Treasure (Manlilikha ng Bayan) award in 1998 by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for her efforts in promoting T’boli culture and for her fine craftsmanship as a T’nalak “Dreamweaver.”
She was buried with state honors on May 28
In January, the Mamasapano Tragedy of January 25 resulted to the death not only of the “SAF 44” or “Fallen 44” but 22 others.
Mainstream and social media focused only on the “SAF 44” or “Fallen 44” to refer to the 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. But they were not the only victims
Twenty-two others were killed, 17 of them from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians, when elite police commandos swooped down on a Mamasapano village on a Sunday dawn purportedly to arrest Malaysian national Zulkifli bin hir aka Marwan, an engineer trained in the United states and believed head of Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia, allegedly a terror group, and Filipino Basit Usman of the Abu Sayyaf.
The United States’ National Counterterrorism Center had offered $5 million reward (PhP 220 million at January 2015 exchange of 44 pesos to a US dollar) for anyone who could provide information leading to Marwan’s arrest and a million dollars (PhP 44 million) for Usman.
Usman escaped but Marwan was killed. And so were 66 others in a tragedy that could have been avoided had the primacy of the peace process been observed. The SAF mounted the operations without coordinating with the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed with the Philippine government the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.
Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, BIFF founder
On April 14, Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), succumbed to cardiac arrest at around 2 a.m. on somewhere in Guindulungan, Maguindanao.
The 69-year old Kato, resigned from his post as commander of the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF in December 2009 and set up the BIFF in March 2010.
Kato suffered a stroke in November 2011 and had not been publicly seen or heard from.
He left behind an organization that has broken into at least three factions.
In an interview in April 2011, Kato told MindaNews, “I am not against peace negotiations pero against ako sa walang hangganan na negotiations” (but I am against never-ending negotiations).
Basit Usman, Wanted man
Two weeks later, also in Guindulungan, Maguindanao, Basit Usman, who escaped from Mamasapano when the SAF mounted a dawn attack to arrest Marwan on January 25, was killed shortly before noon of May 3, while the world was busy watching Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather’s “Fight of the Century.”
Usman, reportedly of the Abu Sayyaf and allegedly trained by Marwan in bomb-making, was killed along with two companions in a firefight in Barangay Muti, Guindulungan, Maguindanao group in an encounter with elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Leoncio Pitao alias Kumander Parago, NPA commander
On June 28, Leoncio Pitao alias Kumander Parago Sandoval of the New People’s Army and medic Vanessa Limpag were killed in encounter in Paquibato, Davao City on a Sunday, at 2:30 p.m., the 10th Infantry Division said.
Parago, 57, chief of the Pulang Bagani Command 1 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Command was killed in Purok 9, Barangay Panalum in Paquibato district, the military said.
But Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA spokesperson for Southern Mindanao, said in a press statement that Parago, whom he described as “a very sick man” as he was suffering from diabetes, among others, was receiving his daily medication when the 6th Scout Ranger Company allegedly appeared and opened fire. Sanchez said Limpag was already raising her arms in surrender and shouting that she was a medic when shot by the soldiers.
Parago was arrested in late 1999 but released in September 2001 as part of confidence and goodwill building measures for the resumption of the peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front.
Before June 28, Parago had been reported killed several times. In a MindaNews interview in February 2011, Parago vowed, “Karon, di na gyud ko padakop nila nga buhi” (I will never let them capture me alive).
July 10 was the most attended funeral march in post-EDSA Davao City, the red flags of the Communist Party of the Philippines paraded around the city’s streets in honor of Parago.
Andal Ampatuan, Sr., clan patriarch, 74
On July 17, 42 days after he was admitted at a state-owned hospital in Quezon City for “advanced liver cancer,” and four days after he lapsed into a coma after a massive heart attack, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. former three-term governor of Maguindanao and one of the principal suspects in the 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan town, passed away at 10:02 p.m. at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City. He was 74.
As Maguindanao governor, Ampatuan was known for his state-tolerated private army and for delivering votes to his allies during local and national elections, iincluding the controversial 12-0 win of the senatorial slate of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007.
Ampatuan was flown to Maguindanao in the morning of July 19 and buried behind his mansion in Shariff Aguak, the town he served as mayor for three terms and later by his sons.
No burial honors were given the former governor. “No burial honors. Hindi na kailangan mag half mast (There will be no flying of the flags at half mast),” Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudatu said.
Mangudadatu’s wife Genalyn and his two sisters were among the massacre victims. Genalyn led the convoy bound for the Commission on Elections provincial office at the Provincial Capitol in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao, to file her husband’s certificate of candidacy for governor.
Emerito Samarca, Lumad school director, and 2 Lumad leaders
The executive director of an alternative learning center for Indigenous Peoples (Lumads) and two Lumad leaders were killed allegedly by paramilitary elements dawn of September 1 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Karapatan Caraga said in a press statement.
Emerito Samarca, 54, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Dionel Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), a Lumad organization protesting mining operations, land conversions and plantations, and Campos’ cousin, Bello Sinzo.
Karapatan-Caraga narrated that at around 4 a.m. on September 1, “known elements” of theMagahat-Bagani “opened fire at Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo as community members in Km. 16, Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur were roused from bed and forced to gather in the middle of the community.”
The Magahat “threatened to massacre the community should they not evacuate within two day,” it said.
At around the same time, Samarca’s body “was found in one of the schoolrooms, tied around the neck and extremities, with a stab wound.”
The killings triggered a mass evacuation of some 3,000 villagers from Lianga and neighboring towns who sought refuge at the provincial sports complex in Tandag City also in Surigao del Sur, and investigations by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The disbandment of the Magahat-Bagani was among the recommendations in both investigations.
Dario Otaza, Mayor of Loreto, Agusan del Sur
Dario Otaza, a member of the Manobo tribe and mayor of Loreto in Agusan del Sur, was a former NPA member who turned outspoken critic of the NPA. He and his son Daryl were abducted by armed men from their residence in Barangay Baan in Butuan City evening of October 19 and their hogtied and bullet-riddled bodies found early morning of October 20 in Purok 2 of Barangay Bitan-agan, a hinterland village in Butuan City.
“The NPA found Dario Otaza and Daryl Otaza guilty of committing acts constituting war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command said in a statement.
“Revolutionary justice prevailed when the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army authorized the imposition of a Standing Order and punished warlords GPH mayor Dario Otaza and Daryl Otaza,” the NPA said in an October 24 press statement by Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s SMRC.
But the New York-based Human Rights Watch in a statement on October 28 said the killing of the mayor and his son was “just plain murder.”
“The killing of the Otazas – like other NPA executions – is just plain murder,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director. “The NPA’s actions and claims of revolutionary justice handed down by people’s courts are flagrant violations of international law,” he said.
Robertson expressed fears that “the NPA killings may worsen the human rights situation in Agusan del Sur and other provinces in the southern Philippines, where the military and its paramilitary forces have been implicated in extrajudicial killings and forced displacement, particularly against indigenous peoples,” adding that by “resorting to vigilantism in the name of justice,” the NPA is “only serving to harm its own demands for justice for victims of military human rights violations.”
Federico Escaler, SJ, retired Bishop
Jesuit Bishop Federico Escaler, the first Bishop of the then Prelature of Kidapawan in North Cotabato and the Prelature of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, passed away on November 28 in his family’s ancestral home in San Miguel, Manila, at the age of 93.
Escaler, Bishop Emeritus of the Prelature of Ipil, served 26 years in Mindanao – as Rector and President of the Ateneo de Davao from 1963 to 1966, as Rector and President of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro from 1974 to 1976, as the first Bishop of the Prelature of Kidapawan (now Diocese) from 1976 to 1980 and as the first Bishop of the Prelature of Ipil from 1980 to 1997, the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said.
The Bishop made headline news when he was kidnapped in 1985, and in 1995 when armed men attacked the town of Ipil and killed least 53 persons in what is now known as the Ipil Massacre, on April 4 that year.
After Escaler’s retirement in 1997, he returned to Manila where “he continued pastoral work as Spiritual Director of Buklod ng Pag-ibig, Chaplain of A.I.M. and the Cenacle Prayer Group.”
“Towards the end of 2015, a mass was discovered in his liver for which he declined further intervention,” Sch. Amado Tumbali, Jr., SJ, Assistant Province Archivist, wrote.
Fr. Jose D. Ante, first Filipino provincial of OMI
Fr. Jose Ante, a missionary priest who devoted a great part of his 51years as priest serving Christians and Muslims in predominantly Muslim Sulu and became the first Filipino provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), died in a vehicular accident in Matanao, Davao del Sur morning of December 4.
The 79-year old Fr. Joe, as Ante was fondly called, served as president of the Notre Dame University (NDU) in Cotabato City and the Notre Dame of Jolo College and his last assignment was as Archives in charge of the OMI Provincial House in Cotabato City.
He was the forerunner of interfaith dialogue in Mindanao, his classmate, Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, said.
Leonardo Avila III, Davao’s “Green Champion”
Councilor Leonardo Avila, “Happy LA” to his radio listeners and described by an environmental group as “one of the city’s first champions for a greener Davao,” passed away dawn of December 20, three months after he suffered a stroke. He was 58.
Avila was councilor for seven terms — from 1988 to 1998, 2001 to 2010, and 2013 until his death – and served as officer in charge of the City Agriculturist Office from 2010 to 2013.
He left behind a legacy of legislations addressing the welfare concerns of the city but it is in the realm of environmental protection and management that Avila was closely associated with.
Philippine Eagle Pamana was released into the wild at Mt. Hamiguitan Range in Davao Oriental on Independence Day, June 12 and monitored by PEF personnel by tracking radio signals from a miniature transmitter harnessed on its back.
At around noon of August 10, the team of biologists from the Philippine Eagle Foundation and local forest guards noticed the radio signals they were receiving at their observation post were on “mortality” mode, which means the unit had not moved for at least six hours – indicating the radio unit came off or the bird died.
On August 16, they found the decomposed carcass of Pamana near a creek below the thick forest where she was released, dead from a gunshot wound on its right chest.
Pamana was rescued from the forests of Iligan City in 2012 by personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who found the young eagle with minor bruises, trauma and superficial gunshot wounds. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)