40th year of martial law declaration: Calls for justice echo in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 21 September)– Protesters led by Bayan Muna and local support groups staged a march rally around Malaybalay City Friday afternoon to mark the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, calling for, among others, justice for a slain village chief.

“Never again to martial law. Fight for genuine justice,” said one of the streamers carried in the march from the capitol grounds to main Fortich Street, the public market, and back to the capitol grounds.

Then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation 1081 on September 21, 1972 placing the country under martial rule. The declaration was officially announced to the public on September 23.

After the march, protesters held a program in the middle of the junction near the old Bukidnon Provincial Hospital.

Protesters also carried streamers tagging President Benigno Aquino III as no different from Marcos. They labeled the government’s Oplan Bayanihan as the “same” as martial law.

A number of the protesters were from Sitio Kirangol, Dao village, San Fernando town, home of Jimmy Liguyon, who was killed on March 5.

Calls for justice

They carried placards calling for justice for the death of Liguyon, Dao village chief, who was killed allegedly by paramilitary forces under the so-called New Indigenous People’s Army Reform, which is purportedly backing mining operations in the area.

The Kaugalingong Systema Igpapasindog Tu Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO) said Liguyon was an anti-mining advocate who opposed the entry of mining operations in the area.

Liguyon’s family and supporters fled Dao on March 14 and camped out at the capitol grounds for four months and 24 days. They left on August 1 after an agreement was reached in a dialogue that tribal councils back home will assure their safety.

About 30 families or a total of 135 individuals rode in four trucks, ending months of stay in tents at the capitol grounds to exert pressure for the government to arrest Aldy “Butchoy” Salusad.

Salusad, the main suspect in the killing of Liguyon, is still at large.

Protesters lamented the failure of the police to arrest Salusad, even if Dao residents reported that he is freely moving in the village.

“The arrest warrant issued to the group’s leader, Salusad, remains a worthless piece of paper,” Nilo Cabungcal, KASILO spokesperson, said in a statement.

Rebecca Aquino, a veteran reporter from Church-run “Ang Bandilyo,” said the protest march gave life to the local commemoration of martial law anniversary in the province.

She added the protesters were able to use the situation in Barangay Dao, San Fernando to connect to the bitter years of martial law.

‘Despotic act’

A representative from OGYON or the Organisasyon sa mga Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa sa Bukidnon criticized Executive Order 87 issued by Gov. Alex Calingasan last September 3. The order provides “stricter regulations regarding the assembly of individuals staging protests or creating infrastructures within the compounds of the provincial capitol.”

Protesters called it a despotic act from the provincial government because “the people only wanted to express their sentiments” as part of their democratic rights.

The provincial board passed a resolution last week urging Calingasan to assign a space in the capitol grounds as a ‘freedom park.”

Addressing the platoon of police officers and the Civil Security Unit personnel of the provincial government deployed to man road blockades at the capitol grounds, a representative from the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao hit the alleged harassment they experienced on September 3, the day Calingasan’s order was issued.

Masked men riding tandem in motorcycles allegedly barged into their protest and destroyed their sound system then, ordering them to vacate the grounds for failure to secure a rally permit.

In an earlier interview Provo Antipasado, provincial administrator, denied the provincial government was behind the attack.

For his part, Supt. Oscar Jacildo, Malaybalay City police chief, confirmed deploying a total of six police teams to the capitol grounds, three each from the Public Safety Company and three from the local police station, including those not in uniform.

Struggle for ancestral lands

Datu Lapinig Nicomedes Benanos, Talaandig tribal chieftain from Kisanday, Maramag, Bukidnon, appealed to the provincial government to help the lumads (indigenous peoples) in their struggle to secure their ancestral domain.

Already frail, the datu lamented the government’s failure to address his tribe’s decades of struggle to get back at least 260 hectares of their land presently titled to the Central Mindanao University. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)