Peace adviser condemns murder of Lumad leader in Bukidnon

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 07 January) — Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Valdez condemned the January 4 killing of a Lumad leader in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Galvez also blamed communist rebels for burning a livelihood center of the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples or IPs) in Barangay Panansalan in Compostela, Compostela Valley last December 30.

“By and large, these attacks run counter to the cessation of hostilities declared between the Reds and government during the holiday season,” Galvez said in a statement on Monday, a day before the 16-day ceasefire between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) ends. The NDF represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army in the peace negotiations (CPP-NPA).

The two parties each declared a unilateral and mutual ceasefire on December 22 for the period from 00:00 on December 23, 2019 to 11:59 p.m. on January 7, 2020.

Under the NDF’s ceasefire declaration, NPA units are forbidden from attacking Army, police and Cafgus during the 15-day period. It did not however, mention civilians or those identified as paramilitary units helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Datu Sammy Diwangan, 45, an Umayamnon leader and Mandatory IP Representative of Barangay Canangaan, was killed while cutting wood in his farm last Jan. 4.

Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, commander of the 8th Infantry Battalion said Diwangan was with his nine-year-old son and another companion when the rebels waylaid them and killed the victim.

The NPA has not issued any statement on Diwangan.

Illana said the municipal government of Cabanglasan has convened a fact-finding team to look into the murder.

“Diwangan has been receiving death threats for helping the Army thwart the NPA expansion in the mountains of Cabanglasan,” Illana said.

Illana said they have repeatedly warned Diwangan not to venture out to his farm because of these threats.

He said Diwangan believed he would not be harmed by the NPA because there was an ongoing ceasefire between the government and the NDF.

Illana said the NPA had accused Diwangan as a leader of a notorious anti-communist paramilitary group called Alamara.

Galvez also blamed the NPA rebels for the burnig of a livelihood center in Barangay Panansalan in Compostela, Compostela Valley on December 30.
“Clearly, these acts of terrorism are meant to instill fear, anger and hatred in the hearts and minds of the people, particularly among our Lumad brothers and sisters, Galvez said.

Galvez in a statement on December 28, urged everyone to “exercise caution” in resuming peace negotiations with the NDF as localized peace talks, he said, have proven to be “highly effective in achieving enduring peace, social justice, and development.”

“We support President Duterte’s wish to ensure a peaceful holiday season for Filipinos and particularly all the combatants. May this act of goodwill be considered by the other side as a step towards finally putting an end to the armed violence,” Galvez said.

But the retired General and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff urged everyone to be cautious in resuming peace negotiations at the national level as he recalled incidents in the past “when ceasefires were blatantly violated and exploited by the left in order to push forward their agenda.”

Galvez expressed fear that government may be put at a disadvantage if the peace talks with the NDF is resumed.

“As peace talks were being held at the national level, attacks were being carried out by the rebels. In short, there have already been precedents. We have to be prepared and make sure that such incidents are prevented at all costs,” Galvez said.

Galvez said that through the localized peace talks or localized peace engagements (LPEs) institutionalized by Executive Order 70, government is “demonstrating its strong resolve and decisiveness to put an end to the local communist armed conflict by directly addressing the roots of the armed rebellion and involving all national and local government agencies together with key stakeholders – including the rebels themselves.” (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)