Lumads want Army, NPA out in Tulunan village

The B'laan Tribal Council expressed fears the fighting might again erupt "because both forces have refused to leave our place.”

"We want our land back. We want to return to our land. We don't want any group to drive us out from our ancestral lands," the council said in a press statement.

The council also demanded from both the Army and the NPA to present to them the body of Enrile Laman, aka, Ka Tawad, "if indeed he died from the February 6 armed fighting".

Earlier, Army Lt. Col. Milfredo Meligrito, commander of the 57th IB, announced a pullout of his troops in Tulunan area.

Meligrito said that the withdrawal came a day after their bloody encounter with the NPAs in Sitio Samwe, Barangay Bacung in Tulunan that led to the death of six guerillas, including the leader of the Unit Militia of NPA Front 72 they identified as Commander Jeck-Jeck whose real name was Pedro Fabello.

"The Army is saying Laman has died, which the NPA refuted.  However, Laman's relatives are asking — where is the body?   Please, show us the body," the natives said in their dialect.

The La Bugal Tribal Council also insisted that the Army was still seen in the area.

The recent fighting in Tulunan displaced at least 2,100 B'laans, mostly children, from four sitios in Barangay Bacung and three nearby villages in Tulunan and in Magsaysay, Davao Del Sur.

They were housed temporarily in at least 10 evacuation sites in Tulunan.  Many complained of lack of food, clothing, and bedding. Some children and elders suffered from cough, colds, and other respiratory illnesses.

The Tulunan municipal social welfare and development office admitted that they only distributed nine sacks of rice to some 2,082 evacuees since February 6.

"What can we do here?  There is very little food to eat.  How can we survive with this little assistance from the government?   So, we must go home now for us to survive," said Minda Dalinan, a member of the La Bugal council.   (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)