Lumads stage ‘die-in’ protest in front of NCIP-10 office

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 Sept) – At least a hundred lumads and peasants staged a “die-in” protest in front of the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-10) along Tiano St. here today to dramatize their dismay over the commission’s alleged delay in resolving issues that affect them.

It was the same group that staged a similar protest action last Sept. 1, except that at that time, they brought in a real coffin with a real corpse inside, that of Welcie Gica, a Higaonon farmer allegedly killed on Aug. 24 by one of the security guards of a big ranch in Maramag, Bukidnon owned by the Villalon family.

Wearing black bands and holding lighted candles, lumads lay down in the middle of the street. Today’s protest action effectively closed the street for traffic for at least 30 minutes.

Protesters were members of Alyansa Bukidnon, a federation of peasant and lumad organizations in Bukidnon where the Panalsalan Dagumbaan Tribal Association (PADATA) is a member organization.

Roel Panuga, spokesperson of Alyansa Bukidnon, the die-in protest dramatized the wanting performance of NCIP.

PADATA members have filed for the “annulment and recall of the certification precondition” issued by then NCIP-10 regional director Tommie Labaon to Ernesto Villalon which enabled the latter to renew his Forest Land Grazing Management Agreement (FGLMA) last year on the contested 480-hectare land in Barangay Panalsalan, Maramag town in Bukidnon.

Last week, NCIP commissioner for Northern and Western Mindanao Cosme Lambayon said in an interview that they already have a decision on the matter but cannot discuss its contents and that the commissioners will resolve the issue today.

“We will resolve that at the soonest time possible,” he said, adding that only the signatures are lacking.

But in a phone interview this morning, Lambayon said the commissioners decided to postpone their en banc session for Region 10 issues to September 20 and 21. He did not elaborate on the reason for the postponement other than it had something to do with “a hearing in Congress last week.”

For his part, Task Force Mapalad (TFM) coordinator for Mindanao Joseph Coles sees this as another “delaying tactic.” TFM is a non-government organization assisting the Alyansa Bukidnon and PADATA in their claim over the Villalon Ranch.

“They are dilly-dallying” in resolving the case, Coles said. He added that they were half-expecting the postponement because “the Villalons are well-connected.”

Coles said they will bring their struggle to Manila at the doorsteps of the main office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Visayas Ave., Quezon City on Monday next week.

“We will demand that DENR suspend or cancel Villalon’s FGLMA. Since the order of NCIP Commissioner Agton (Roque) for status quo, the goons of Villalon have violated it, which resulted to the murder of Welcie Gica,” he said.

The Villalons, on the other hand, are claiming that their FGLMA is legitimate, having obtained a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) through a Manobo tribal leader in the area. But PADATA claims that the Higaonon and Talaandig tribes have claims over the disputed area.  (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)