DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Apr) – A Lumad rights group condemned the killing of Datu Kaylo Bontolan, a community leader who was killed in a military encounter in Sitio Ngaran, Barangay Kipilas, Kitaotao in Bukidnon last April 7.
Jong Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao, said in a statement on Thursday that the Lumad leaders of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon in Talaingod expressed grief over the death of Datu Bontolan, a council member and deputy secretary general of Pasaka.
Monzon claimed Bontolan was checking on the condition of the Manobo evacuees, who fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte due to alleged military operations and bombings, when the firefight between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces erupted.
“We mourn the death of Kaylo, who at his young age has sacrificed much for the defense of our ancestral land and the Lumad schools in Talaingod. He could have contributed more for the Lumad,” he said.
A photo released by the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) dated April 9, 2019 showed a slain NPA member in combat attire, bearing resemblance to Bontolan.
Monzon confirmed it was the slain Datu leader, who appeared mostly in forums and media interviews on the plight of the Lumads.
“Oo si Kaylo na, pero pwdi nila himuon ang biskan unsa, sa usa ka maayo nga leader ug dili nana bago sa ilang hinimuan (Yes, it’s Kaylo. But they can always do anything to a good leader and that’s nothing new from what they usually do),” he said.
Lt. Col. Ezra L. Balagtey, EastMinCom spokesperson, said troopers of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion, who were validating information on the presence of an armed group in the area, clashed with communist guerillas at 9:50 a.m. after the NPA members fired at government forces.
Another clash erupted at 10:15 a.m. and lasted for two hours, he said.
Balagtey said the military recovered an AK-47 rifle, an M653 rifle, an M16 rifle, three caliber .45 pistols, one improvised explosive, combat pack, personal belongings, and subversive documents.
Monzon said: “Our plight in Talaingod is comparable to ants being trampled and forced to scatter anywhere, because of Martial Law in Mindanao, where soldiers and the paramilitary Alamara have attacked us no end.”
He said Lumads would continue to stand united for their tribe and ancestral domain even if their leader died.
“Like ants we unite and resist the militarization in our communities. We know their aim is to seize Pantaron Range in our ancestral territory, which they want to plunder for mining and other ventures,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)