Raps filed vs 75 persons for demolition of Lumad houses in South Cotabato town

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 8 July) – Charges of frustrated murder and malicious mischief have been filed against 75 persons, including a former councilor of General Santos City, who allegedly harassed Lumads on Sunday and destroyed at least 20 houses in a remote village in the municipality of T’boli, South Cotabato, a police official said.

Tboli, South Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

Maj. Irish Hezron Parangan, T’boli police chief, said Wednesday the charges against former Councilor Minda Atendido and the others were lodged before the provincial prosecutor’s office through online filing.

Clarifying earlier reports, Parangan said the houses of the Palon clan in Sitio Pagang, Barangay Basag in T’boli were not burned but demolished by the suspects who were armed with various firearms and bladed weapons.

He told MindaNews in a phone interview the suspects remained at the police station as of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday awaiting the decision or bail recommendation of the court.

Majority of them stayed at the premises of the police station since Sunday night as their sheer number overwhelmed the capacity of the detention facility, Parangan said.

T’boli Mayor Dibu Tuan has been providing support to feed those who have been rounded up after the incident earlier on Sunday, Parangan said.

Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said that land conflict fueled the tension in the area.

Atendido, who is also chairperson of Barangay Sinawal in General Santos City, denied there was harassment and strafing of guns during the incident.

In a radio interview, Atendido insisted she was the rightful owner, noting she has been paying rent and taxes to the government involving 150 hectares of the disputed land.

She added they have sought the help of the T’boli local government to help settle the land conflict.

During the roundup, Siason said the combined police and Army team seized from the suspects an M-16 Armalite rifle, one Thompson submachine gun, one caliber .30 Carbine, an improvised M203 grenade launcher, assorted ammunition and various bladed weapons.

He lauded the troops for apprehending those who allegedly harassed residents and destroyed the houses owned by families belonging to the T’boli tribe.

Parangan said they are still verifying if the seized firearms have licenses. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)