UCCP-Bukidnon seeks bishop’s help on ‘threats’ from armed Lumad group

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 March) – Continuing threats against the family members and supporters of the slain barangay chair of Dao, San Fernando town in Bukidnon have prompted a pastor of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines today to seek help from other church leaders.

Pastor Arturo Veladiez said he has scheduled a talk tonight with Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan on the alleged threats coming from Aldy “Butsoy” Salusad against the family of slain barangay chair Jimmy Liguyon and other UCCP members in Dao.

Salusad admitted to having killed Liguyon on March 5 in an interview today over radio station DXDB.

Veladiez called for the arrest of Salusad, his prosecution, and imprisonment to give justice to the death of Liguyon, who was also the president of their local church council.

A total of 25 families from Dao have fled the village after Salusad threatened to target Liguyon’s family and supporters.

“We cannot leave him and his family in this situation,” Veladiez said.

Veladiez did not say if all of those who fled the village joined the “kampuhan” (encampment) protest at the capitol grounds in Malaybalay calling for justice for Liguyon’s death. Fourteen villagers arrived
in the kampuhan on March 14.

But Leah Tumbalang, chair of the Kaugalingong Sistema Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo), told MindaNews Sunday that nine more families from Dao arrived on Saturday.

The Liguyons fled Dao and put up makeshift tents at the capitol grounds a few days after their patriarch was killed.

Liguyon’s son Randy, who said he witnessed the crime, told the dialogue presided by Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. on March 21 that the assailants were led by Salusad, a former New People’s Army rebel who formed a paramilitary group called the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform or Nipar a few month after his surrender in September 2010.

Salusad is identified with the San Fernando Matigsalug Tribal Datus (Sanmatrida), which has pending applications for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and mining operations in Dao.

Salusad is the son of Benjamin “Nonong” Salusad, a former New People’s Army member, who surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Maramag town on Nov. 15 last year and who is now a member of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit.

Earlier, Nipar had admitted to killing Liguyon through a statement read over dxDB. In owning up to the killing, the group accused the victim of being a supporter of the NPA, and of often joining protest actions by militant groups.

The statement alleged Liguyon was a corrupt barangay official and a supporter of Alamara, an armed Lumad group.

Emelio Liguyon however said his brother was killed for refusing to recognize Sanmatrida and not endorsing its mining application. He alleged that [Aldy] Salusad warned the residents of Dao they would be killed too if they would not support Sanmatrida.

He added that Alamara is also a paramilitary group engaged in fighting the NPA.

Liguyon’s son, Randy, told the March 21 dialogue that after the shooting of his father, he heard Salusad shout that he killed the barangay chair for refusing to cooperate with Sanmatrida.

The dialogue ended with Zubiri reiterating a Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution ordering the military and the police to secure and restore peace and order in the town and to arrest Liguyon’s killers.

But Datu Inbanwag Jomorito Goaynon told reporters they were dismayed because they had hoped the provincial government would act and cause the arrest of the suspect so they can return home.

Instead of returning home, more people are expected to arrive from Dao, Tumbalang told MindaNews Saturday afternoon. He said nine more families from Dao were on their way to this city because they no longer felt safe there. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)