Bukidnon village folk refuse to go home without assurance of security

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 April) – Relatives and supporters of slain barangay chair Jimmy Liguyon of Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon who have evacuated and encamped at the capitol grounds here have demanded assurance of their security and a written order for them to return to the town, in an audience Monday with the provincial police director.

Liguyon was killed on March 5 allegedly by Aldy “Butsoy” Salusad, leader of an armed Lumad group called the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform (Nipar). Salusad reportedly threatened to kill the victim’s family members and supporters.

Supt. Rustom Duran, who showed up in the meeting instead of provincial government officials, asked the residents to return to their town assuring them of police security.

He said San Fernando police will be ordered to watch them 24/7 if they agreed to be transferred to a space inside the municipal compound in Halapitan, the town center.

Duran said Gov. Alex Calingasan asked him to talk to the evacuees and convince them to leave their encampment at the capitol grounds and return to the town. He cited the lack of permit to hold a protest action and some sanitation problems at the place as initial reasons.

On March 28, the Provincial Public Affairs and Information and Assistance (PAIA) reported that the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office brought 17 adults and 20 children from the encampment to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center for complaints of colds and fever.

Fredelyn Ragandang of PAIA said no one was confined at the hospital.

The PAIA issued a statement Monday that Calingasan asked the evacuees to use a portion of the old provincial hospital building for their own safety.

But the statement said Leah Tumbalang, chair of the Kaugalingong Sistema Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo), which is supporting the evacuees, has refused it.

Tumbalang was quoted as saying they prefer to stay in the capitol grounds because they can easily make their demands known to the public, to pressure authorities into helping them.

She said if the governor indeed wanted them to return to San Fernando he should put it in writing.

She added that if the municipal government was assuring their security, it must also be put in writing.

“Right now, we are being passed around [from one authority to another] ,” she said in the vernacular.

Duran said he would follow orders to demolish the encampment, if any, since the evacuees had no permit to stay there.

But the evacuees said the government should focus on the speedy arrest of Salusad.

Tumbalang said Salusad’s arrest will enable them to go back to Dao to resume normal lives.

Duran said no warrant has been issued for Salusad’s arrest. He said they filed a murder complaint murder at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office on March 17 but the fiscal has not issued a resolution.

Randy Liguyon, son of the slain Lumad leader, told MindaNews after the meeting with Duran that they can do nothing if the provincial government asked them to leave the capitol grounds. He said it was Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. who allowed them to use the grounds for their encampment.

Randy said if the governor and police will state in writing that they could not solve the killing, they will subject the case to the Lumad’s traditional justice system.

Suspect 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.

He 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.

The younger Salusad is also a former NPA rebel. He surrendered in 2010 and allegedly organized Nipar a few months after.

Salusad admitted to having killed Liguyon in an interview on March 26 over radio station dxDB. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)