Bukidnon tribal war settled thru customary laws

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 3 Aug) – A deadly tribal war that has left a pregnant woman dead and seven others, mostly children, injured in Bukidnon was settled Tuesday through the use of customary laws, officials said.

Roberto Almonte, director for Region 10 of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said the war between the Tigwahanon and Umayamnon tribes was ended through the use of customary laws during a meeting called by San Fernando town Mayor Levi Edma last Tuesday

“The tribal leaders agreed to settle their difference through customary laws and stop the war,” he said.

Almonte said the tribal leaders pointed at a certain Aldie Salusad alias “Butchoy” as leader of the armed “Mangahat” tribal warriors as allegedly responsible for the killing of Makeneth Salubo, who was pregnant, and seven others who were wounded in the attack.

Last July 30, Salubo and her neighbors were celebrating a Lumad wedding at their village plaza when armed men allegedly led by Salusad came and strafed at the gathering with their high-powered firearms

A team of policemen and army soldiers is now hunting for Salusad and his group at the tri-boundaries of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur.

The New People’s Army is also joining the hunt separately.

NPA-North Central Mindanao spokesperson Ka Allan Juanito, in an email statement to reporters here, said they would also be hunting Butchoy’s father, Benjamin Salusad, a former NPA rebel who surrendered and became a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in San Fernando.

Not all Lumads were happy on the peace agreement signed by the Tigwahanon and Umayamnon tribes.

More than 200 Tigwahanon tribesmen have camped outside the Bukidnon provincial capitol in Malaybalay City starting Tuesday demanding justice and the arrest of the Salusads.

Datu Jimboy Mandagat, a Tigwahanon, said his community was not invited to the peace gathering held in the town hall of San Fernando last Tuesday.

“What was settled was the difference between Tigwahanon and Umayamnon tribes but what happened to my community was not settled. We demand justice and the arrest of the Salusads,” he said.

Mandagat said the Salusads have long terrorized the tribal folks in San Fernando but the authorities have largely ignored their nefarious activities.

He said the Salusads are engaged in small-scale mining and are “paid protectors of bigtime mining companies in their area.

“I was even threatened by Butchoy if I don’t surrender to him,” Mandagat said, adding that Butchoy has accused him of sympathizing with leftists because he has been joining protest actions.

But Mandagat sees nothing wrong with joining protest rallies.

According to a special report made by the Philippine Army, Benjamin Salusad became a CAFGU under supervision from the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao City.

The report said his son, who was recruited by the NPA rebels when he was 13 years old, also surrendered together with his father and became a CAFGU, too.

According to the report, the Salusads, bringing their firearms, got out from Army supervision four years ago and soon started terrorizing the tribal folks around San Fernando town.

“They roam around the mountains and seldom go down. We consider them very dangerous,” said an Army official who spoke on condition of anonymity. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)