Manobo clan vows to continue fight for ancestral land

QUEZON, Bukidnon (MindaNews/ 21 July)—About 500 members of the Manobo tribe have returned to their makeshift shelters along the road of a vast sugarcane plantation here, part of which they claimed as their ancestral land.

To press their claim, the Manobo’s Tambog-Villanon clan marched last July 12 to the town hall but their efforts were futile.

The Tambog-Villanon clan is claiming 1,400 hectares of the 12,000 hectares since the early 1990s from the Montalvan family, which developed it to a ranch and allowed the Busco Sugar Milling Co. to put up a sugar plantation.

During the 11-kilometer march to the municipal hall, 11-year old Mene Rose Delaynon died. The tribe has since buried her.

Although there were no official medical reports, her parents, Felix Delaynon and Milagros Andila, both members of Tambog-Villanon clan, claimed that the cause of their daughter’s death was due to extreme tiredness, inadequate food and exposure to the sun and the rain.

One of the tribe’s elders, Datu Eduardo Salibo, said that they are determined to get their land.

“Dili mi mag undang hangtud nga matagaan mi og pagtagad sa goberno labi na sa NCIP (We will not stop until we will be given attention by the government especially the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples),” he said.

Bukidnon Vice Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri asked the group to wait until July 31, adding that Pablo Lorenzo, a member of the Montalvan family and ranch supervisor, made the plea after they asked the court for an “extension.”

The contract to the lands reportedly expired last December 2009.

“My only request to them [tribe members] is to wait until July 31 before they decide to enter the private area. [By then], I can give them escorts for their safety if they will enter the property,” Zubiri said.

But another tribal leader, Datu Midsambay Martiliano Lloren, said that they were not aware about the “extension” cited by Zubiri.

“They may just be the ones making that agreement. If possible, they should set a dialogue in order to make things clear,” he said in the vernacular.

Earlier this month, NCIP-10 regional director Atty. Pinky Grace Pabelic said the case of the Villanon clan is under en banc deliberation if they will be issued a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title.

“It’s actually on the third and final reading in Manila and probably it will be out before the month ends,” she said.

But the Villanon clan is facing another problem with the advent of “new claimants.”

Lloren, the tribal chieftain, said that from the original seven claimants, it has now ballooned to 17. (Nef Luczon/MindaNews)