NPA owns up killing of Lumad leader

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 July) — The New People’s Army’s 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion has owned up the killing of Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) leader Ruden Labawan of the Ata-tribe of Paquibato District in Davao City, and his companion, Romeo Tanio, last July 6 in Panabo City.

In a statement issued by the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Southern Mindanaoon Friday, NPA Southern-Mindanao Region spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said Labawan was guilty of blood debts and meted with death penalty for crimes against the people, the Lumads, and the peasant settlers in Davao City and North Cotabato based on the decision issued by its revolutionary court.

The statement, however, did not indicate if they had the same standing order against Tanio, who was with Labawan at the time of the incident.

The two were gunned down by unidentified gunmen riding on motorcycles after attending the convergence forum and consultation organized by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) at RJ3 Restaurant in Brgy. Gredu, Panabo City at around 4 p.m. last Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, director of the Police Regional Office, has ordered  the Davao del Norte police chief to create a Special Investigation Task Group to look into the killing and file appropriate charges against the assailants.

The NDF statement alleged that since 2001, “under the AFP-designed Task Force Gantangan, Labawan was conscripted as an intelligence operative for the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), specializing in the implementation of National Internal and Security Plan for Indigenous People” that led to “numerous deaths, displacement, suffering and hardships of Lumad and peasant masses of Davao City and North Cotabato.”

It also claimed that Labawan “conspired with the AFP’s 69th IB in the 2015 Paquibato massacre that killed Datu Ruben Enlog and farmers Randy Carnasa and Oligario Quimbo” and that he was “an active organizer of the AFP’s Alamara.”

“Emboldened by the National Commission on Indigenous People, he was made administrative officer of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim Nos. 016 and 093 and held CAD Title for 37,000 hectares of ancestral land in Paquibato. This vast land included agricultural areas that have long been tilled by the Lumads but are being peddled by Labawan to agri-corporations and large-scale mining interests,” he said.

Sanchez added that Labawan “deputized his minions to carry out widespread land-grabbing and cattle-rustling that victimized poor Lumads and settlers in Paquibato, Marilog, Malabog and other areas in Davao City.”

In a text message to MindaNews, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey said linking Labawan to the military is a “flimsy and trivial” excuse to justify the killing.

He added the military condemned the killing of the Lumad leader.

“Linking him to the military is a flimsy and trivial excuse to justify the coward act of killing and silencing a voice of the Ata-Manobo in fighting for their rights to their land,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, during the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fitr 2016 at the SMX Convention Center here on Friday, asked the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to refrain from engaging in ambush and killing.

He also urged the revolutionary forces to stop kidnapping of soldiers, so that government adnt ehe CPP can resume the peace talks properly without resentment.

“Kasi ‘di naman maari na ang (It cannot be that the) military will just keep silent and all of their men are being kidnapped and killed and while we’re in the process of perfecting a — the wherewithals of how to proceed with the peace talks,” he said, adding that all people despite differences in religion and beliefs are “brothers and sisters by blood.”

“Anyway, we are talking. Binigyan na nga tayo ng very good example ni Brother Murad (Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) na inspite of the non-passage of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) walang gumalaw (there are no skirmishes). And Nur is also just having a stand down somewhere in Jolo,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)