MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 January) – Lumad evacuees from a mountain village of Malaybalay City are demanding the disbandment and disarming of alleged paramilitary men who they said have been sowing fear in their place since last year.
The evacuees, all members of the Talaandig tribe from Sitio Balaodo in Barangay St. Peter, accused members of the Alamara of killing civilians and forcing them to leave the area.
Since Wednesday, they have been camping out in front of the provincial capitol here. They said they would not return to their homes if government could not assure their security.
In an interview Thursday, Manhangilo Han-ayan, an elder from Balaodo, said the Alamara was formed by the military to fight the New People’s Army.
Military officials have denied any link between paramilitary groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Han-ayan said that on Sept. 25 last year Alamara members shot dead two Balaodo residents identified as Jun Pabiana and Jonathan Olinan, a 15-year-old student.
Han-ayan identified the suspects as brothers Mancolobi, Manlomakad and Dionelo Bocalas.
He said the suspects are Lumads from the neighboring town of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon.
He said Olinan was stripping abaca for sale so he could buy school supplies when the Alamara arrived and shot him.
Balaodo has a public school built by the city government offering kindergarten classes and complete elementary education. It has five teachers. But classes had stopped because the sitio has become deserted.
Han-ayan added that at about 2 p.m. on Oct. 27 last year Alamara members fired at Mangcombiti Mariano, 47, and his 10-year-old grandson Ryan Ombayan who were picking durian.
Mariano died but Ombayan survived. The child suffered nine gunshot wounds in the legs and body.
Han-ayan said Ombayan stayed with his dead grandfather overnight until other residents found them the next day.
Ruben Banggaan, a resident of Barangay Canangaan in Cabanglasan who joined the camp-out at the capitol, said Alamara members shot him on Nov. 15 last year on his way to the forest to cut a tree for his house. He was hit in his back and left elbow.
He identified the suspects as brothers Inad and Maco Santos, Loyloy Yangahon and Taloto Inombay. He said they were carrying an M16, a carbine, a Garand and a shotgun.
Banggaan said he knows Inad Santos because the latter lived in his house for two years before leaving to join the Alamara.
He added that on Sept. 10 last year Alamara members shot Loloy Hamin of Barangay Paradise, Cabanglasan.
He said Hamin survived gunshot wounds in the breast and right arm.
Raymond Gabute alleged that after the killings the Alamara went to Balaodo, threw out household items of some residents and threatened to harm them if they would not leave.
He said all of Balaodo’s 76 families (335 individuals) left their homes on Dec. 5 and sought refuge in St. Peter.
The evacuees who arrived at the capitol on Wednesday only numbered 116. Gabute said the rest opted to remain in St. Peter “kay mahadluk sila sa syudad” (because they’re afraid of the city).
Some of the evacuees at the capitol could only speak in their native tongue and could not understand Bisaya. Han-ayan, for example, spoke to MindaNews through interpreters from among the other evacuees.
Gabute said the residents fear the Alamara because “mopatay sila nga walay pangutana” (they kill without question). “Maayo man ang mga sundalo kay dili man magpataka og pusil, pero kining Alamara diretso ra man ka pusilon” (The soldiers are better because they don’t shoot indiscriminately, but the Alamara would shoot you right away).
For his part, Banggaan said he believes the Alamara wanted to drive the civilians away so that they can continue with their mining activities unhampered.
He said the Alamara is engaging in “ayag-ayag” or small-scale mining ventures.
Balaodo officially belongs to San Luis town in Agusan del Sur. But the evacuees said that since San Luis is too far they have chosen to be part of St. Peter and are registered as voters of Malaybalay.
Balaodo, a sitio in the forest, is inaccessible by vehicles. From there it takes one day to reach St. Peter on foot. A jeepney ride from the barangay to Malaybalay proper takes at least two hours.