UCCP probes threats vs members in Bukidnon village

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/09 April) — The United Church of Christ in the Philippines National Conference has asked its Mindanao leaders to validate reports of death threats on their members in Barangay Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon in the aftermath of the killing last month of village chief Jimmy Liguyon

Rev. Deomaima Cabada, program coordinator of the UCCP’s area conference, shared the information during the consultation today among Liguyon’s relatives and support groups at the Diocesan Formation Center in Impalambong, Malaybalay City.

Liguyon was a UCCP leader in Dao.

Cabada told MindaNews UCCP Mindanao Bishop Melzar Labuntog has requested the Bukidnon conference to validate the reported threats.

She added that if the reports are true, UCCP will file formal charges against the suspect, Aldy “Butsoy” Salusad, son of former rebel Benjamin “Nonong” Salusad, who surrendered last year along with 79 others.

The Liguyons and their supporters, including UCCP members, fled Dao and put up makeshift tents at the capitol grounds a few days after the killing.

Liguyon’s son Randy, who said he witnessed the crime, told a 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 months 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 NPA 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 sometime last month. 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.

Pastor Arturo Veladiez told MindaNews on March 26 of the alleged threats against the family of Liguyon and other UCCP members in Dao.

Veladiez called for the arrest and prosecution of Salusad 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 issued the alleged threats.

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

The evacuees have remained in the “kampuhan” in front the provincial capitol even after provincial police director Supt. Rustom Duran had asked them, on behalf of Gov. Alex Calingasan, to return to San Fernando for safety and health reasons.

But the evacuees refused to go home, saying they would not be safe there while the suspect remains free. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)