Another man gunned down in GenSan; land conflict eyed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 November) – Less than a week after four people were wounded in a murder attempt in broad daylight, a member of a rival Blaan clan was gunned down Sunday mid-morning in what relatives said is related to an ongoing land conflict in the city.

Loreto Gawan, 44, died two hours after he was brought to the Mindanao Medical Center after a lone gunman riding in tandem shot him behind his ear while traveling inside his service car.

His driver, whom police identified as Christopher Balunto, said they were driving home after coming from Makar Wharf when the gunman shot Gawan once in the head.

The victim is a member of the Gawan clan that has been claiming several pasture lease areas in the city as part of their ancestral domain.

On November 12, Hannah Paglangan and three others were seriously wounded when a gunman, also riding in tandem, ambushed them just outside a coffee shop along the national highway here.

The Paglangans and the Gawans have conflicting claims over the former Forest Land and Grazing Lease Area (FLGLA) No 542 in Lanton village, erstwhile operated by the Alsons Development Corporation.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, then under Secretary Heherson Alvarez, cancelled the lease contract of Alsons in the late ‘90s, paving the way for claimants to file petitions for the issuance of certificates ancestral domain claims.

The Paglangans were the original petitioners and were the parties mentioned in a Supreme Court decision that awarded them portion of the roughly 900-hectare property.

But sources said the Gawan clan and another group of claimants, led by former police officer Nasser Pendatun, were the first to be awarded certificates of ancestral land titles by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The Pendatuns and the Gawans are also embroiled in boundary disputes of their own.

Police here said both violent incidents could be related to conflicting land claims.

More than a dozen have been killed in the ongoing dispute among claimants of the said property. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)