Mayor Duterte vows protection for Lumad evacuees

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 February) – City Mayor Sara Duterte said the city will endeavor to provide protection to Lumad evacuees who would flee their homes in the hinterlands due to the armed conflict.

Duterte was reacting to the killing Sunday of Datu Banadjao Mampaundang and his son Jhonard inside their residence in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

She said she has already asked the military commanders in the city to report if there are Lumads who may need assistance from the government so that they can act on their concerns.

“I always tell them you tell us immediately so that we can act on it and all those who are neither part of the military nor the NPA – those in the middle – we will endeavor to provide the protection to them,” she said.

The mayor said the evacuees may seek temporary shelter at the city-run evacuation facility in Los Amigos, Tugbok District that can house up to 1,000 individuals.

Marvel Enriquez, a bakwit from Km 16, Sitio Han-ayan in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, lulls her 5-month old daughter to sleep at the evacuation area in Tandag City (01 October 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

At present, there are about 300 Lumads who have temporarily sought refuge in the United Church of Christ of the Philippines’ Haran compound in the city.  The Lumads fled their villages in Arakan, North Cotabato and Kapalong and Talaingod in Davao del Norte to avoid getting caught in a crossfire between the military and the NPA.

She added the city supports the Presidential Proclamation No. 374 dated December 5, 2017 designating the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as “terrorist organizations” pursuant to RA No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.

She said she hopes the national government and the military “work on ending this conflict and this problem the military way, or in another way or the peaceful way. We just want resolution for all the issues that have beset our country for the past 50 years.”

During the “Panagtagbo Alang sa Kalinaw ug Kalambuan: An IP Leaders’ Summit” at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario on Thursday, President Duterte likened the NPA to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria for allegedly beheading Mar Acevedo Bocales.

Bocales, a former communist rebel who became a government militiaman, was killed in Surigao del Sur last January 27.

The President accused the NPA of harassing Lumad leaders who wanted to return to the government fold.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with the guests during the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Leaders’ Summit at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, Davao City on February 1, 2018. Also in the photo is National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

He told the 934 summit participants from different parts of Mindanao to resist NPA recruitment and avoid the rebel group, saying he will provide them livelihood.

But Ariel Montero, NPA-Northeastern Mindanao spokesperson, denied allegations that they killed Bocales and pointed instead to members of a “bandit group” led by Emerson Cuarteron as the killers.

Montero said Cuarteron’s group belongs to the Magahat paramilitary unit led by Calpit Egua, which allegedly harasses and extorts residents in gold mining communities of Barangays Castillo and Bolhoon in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

Mayor Duterte said the city’s Peace Development Committee, a body tasked previously to hold localized peace talks with the NPA, prepares the budget proposal for the peace and development projects that will be implemented in 2019.

She said among the projects requested by the Lumads are roads, accessible schools, water, and electricity.

She added the committee visited two barangays in Paquibato District to know the “opinion and concerns of the affected barangays” in order to propose the necessary programs. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)