MALAYBALAY CITY (Mindanews/09 March) – Time and again, the government has been cautioned against the policy of recruiting and arming paramilitary groups in the fight against insurgency in the countryside. Unfortunately, all pleas to demobilize these poorly-disciplined and trigger-happy elements have had fallen on deaf ears.
A recent incident in Barangay Dao, San Fernando town in Bukidnon underscored yet again the danger of maintaining militiamen to the safety of civilians who are virtually helpless against their depredations. Jimmy Liguyon, the village chief, was murdered by one Butsoy Salusad, according to firsthand witnesses interviewed yesterday morning by dxDB-Malaybalay.
The witnesses, who are brothers of the victim, said Salusad declared that he killed Liguyon for refusing to recognize the San Fernando Matigsalug Tribal Datus (Sanmatrida), which is laying claim to over 52,000 hectares of ancestral land in the municipality. Incidentally, the group has been courting mining investors to operate in the area, a proposal vehemently opposed by Liguyon.
It was an act of murder yet Butsoy Salusad did not mind admitting it in front of the people of Dao. What made him so bold it did not matter to him that he killed a barangay captain in front of many witnesses?
Here are some facts. Salusad is the son of Benjamin “Nonong” Salusad, a New People’s Army surrenderee who is presently undergoing training as a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu). Like his father, the younger Salusad was also a rebel. Reports, however, said that he became disgruntled after the benefits he had expected as a surrenderee were not given right away and turned to banditry, terrorizing people in the uplands of San Fernando.
Since Butsoy had already surrendered, presumably he had turned in the firearm he had used as a rebel. Now, who gave him the baby Armalite which the witnesses said he used in the crime? We can only surmise at the moment. But we can be pretty sure it was provided by people who stand to benefit from mining the gold in San Fernando.
If Butsoy is now a government-paid militiaman, it’s understood that the gun came from the military. That would be another black mark on the image on the military if indeed they had made Butsoy a Cafgu.
It’s a deadly equation with the local people trapped in a state of helplessness against an armed tribal group tasked to carry out the dirty work of cowing them into submission. With Liguyon the barangay captain dead, what can prevent mining interests from entering Dao. Who will stand up to the terror tactics of the Salusads now that they can justify their existence under the guise of counterinsurgency? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at email@example.com)