An elderly indigenous woman of TINDOGA asserts right to establish their protest camp on 16 June 2015 despite dissaproval from members of the Civil Security Unit. [Photo by Vennel Francis. D. Chenfoo]
18 June 2015--"Why is it that even when there are clear charges to be made against the guards of this rich rancher, none are made? But when some dubious claims are thrown against the poor Manobo community lawsuits are immediately filed?” fumed Sr. Ma. Famita Somogod, MSM, Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines - Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR).
On June 13 this year, while some women from the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) area in Butong, Quezon were washing their clothes in a nearby stream, they heard gunshots near their community. Betty Tunasan, one of them, attempted to check what was happening, seeing the guards of Pablo ‘Poling’ Lorenzo. However, she and her neighbors at the stream with her were also sprayed with bullets. They identified Mark Anthony Montañer Anton as the leader of the guards.
Keeping the residents away, the guards then proceeded to wreck their shanties. Some materials which were still usable were taken away by the guards as well. They took water containers, sprayers, farming implements, and even the cooking pots of the residents.
“They didn’t only harass the TINDOGA families,” said Sister Somogod. “Clearly, they robbed the families of their things. Although they were not as expensive as the computers or television sets that are stolen in urban homes, these were vital to the daily needs of the poor farming families.”
They immediately reported the incident to the officers stationed near the Bukidnon Sugar Company (BUSCO) and some members of Bantay Bayan went back to the area with them. However, the group was also shot at by the guards.
Police units from Malaybalay City and Maramag town responded to the incident as well. Last to respond had been the police unit from Quezon where the incident took place.
To express dissent over the continued attacks, members of TINDOGA established a 'Kampuhan' or protest camp in front of the Provincial Capitol building of Bukidnon in Malaybalay City on June 16. They have pressed the provincial government to act on the case.
“Justice has been too elusive for us,” said TINDOGA spokesperson Bae Jocelyn Agdahan. “Not until Poling Lorenzo held accountable for his series of violations against our individual and collective rights, the attacks will continue.”
Members of TINDOGA establishing their 'Kampuhan' on June 16, 2015 in front of the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol building. [Photo by Vennel Francis D. Chenfoo]
Not the first time
This was not the first incident of harassment experienced by TINDOGA families under the arrogant violence of the guards of Lorenzo. Even when the organization had already been awarded their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), they were kept away from their land, their makeshift homes hacked at and the people shot at. The aggression of the guards had even resulted to the death of Mabini ‘Tata’ Beato in March 24 this year. But to this day, no arrest has been made.
In yesterday’s dialogue with Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri, the governor said that charges have already been filed against Lorenzo and his guards.
Dialogue with Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri yesterday. [Photo by Stiffay Paluga]
“We want the warrant of arrest out,” said Agdahan.
TINDOGA members agreed to go back to their community after Zubiri promised protection for the community while they are tilling inside the contested lands.###