Bumbaran-Talakag folks ‘in critical situation’ seek PNoy’s help

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/ 08 February)- Residents of 10 villages
in Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur asked President Benigno Aquino III for help in their unfortunate situation — they did not officially belong to any local government and it is worsening their ‘critical’ peace and order situation.

As of today, an evacuee from the area who is an official in one of the
villages, told MindaNews that classes of about 300 pupils of the Upper
Tigason Elementary School are still suspended since January 19. This
was caused by clashes between armed groups which sent villagers to
flee to the nearby Talakag town.

In a letter dated January 8, the residents asked the President to
consider their problem as a priority “as early as possible.”
“Anticipating your immediate action to resolve the problem, for our
welfare and also to avoid more killings in this area for if not, what
if it will be too late,” they wrote.

The letter was sent on fast courier to Malacañang Palace more than a
week before the clashes erupted on January 20 in two of the 10
villages.

MindaNews sources said the armed group of Maranaos led by Mamurak (for
some sources: “Mama Orak”) clashed with the group of “Dimas” on
January 20. A farmer identified as Jojo Pisigan, also armed, was shot
to death by the Mamurak group, the source added. A corn farm next to Pisigan’s
potato garden was also looted by the armed group.

Pisigan’s death reportedly triggered exchange of fire between armed
farmers and the Mamurak group. The Dimas group sided with the farmers,
a MindaNews source said. The clash between the two parties extended up
to January 27, the source added.

The residents sought the help of the military. Capt. Eduardo Meclat,
spokesperson of the 403rd Brigade, said 8IB troops went there.

The source said the military brokered a truce. On January 30 to 31,
Mamurak’s group left Sitio Kilabuntod. The Dimas group, who stayed in
Katipunan, took over in Kilabuntod.

The Mamurak group later returned to the upper portion of the village,
while the Dimas group stayed in the lower area.

Both groups carry high-powered firearms although sources said they
don’t belong to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or the Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Residents feared that Mamurak’s group will attack other villages like
Canaan, based on reports that reached them.

The affected villages were identified as sitios Canaan, Kahayagan,
Katipunan, Kilabuntod, Kabugangan, Janob, Trapal, New Israel,
Pigsayawan, and Mt. Olive, all geographically belonging to Bumbaran
town. However, according to the residents in their letter, the town’s
municipal government did not recognize them “for unknown reasons.”

They cited a total of 3,500 residents mostly dumagats and Manobos from
the 10 villages.

They asked Aquino to step in so the local government of Bumbaran will
recognize them and thus provide services. They noted that they
voluntarily registered as voters in the adjacent village of Dominorog,
which belonged to Talakag in Bukidnon. They consider themselves as
“adopted” villagers.

But residents said in the letter that they could not avail of services
officially from Talakag.

“However, in times of assistance whether in kind or financial coming
from the government or NGOs (non-government organizations) they will
not include us because as they said ‘we are not living in their
area’,” they cited in the letter.

When conflict erupted in the villages, residents realized why they
need to be recognized: they need local government to build better
roads so their products can easily be transported and so it will
become easier for the police and military to respond.

Lt. Col. Jose Ma. Cuerpo told MindaNews earlier the accessibility was
a problem. Bukidnon police director Rustom Duran, however, said in
January their personnel were on standby in Dominorog but they could
not go beyond their area of responsibility.

The MindaNews source said the 10 villages are across the Maridugao
River, the natural boundary between Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur, which
is also recognized by indigenous peoples from Bukidnon as their
traditional boundary.

MindaNews reported earlier that about 100 residents fled the villages
on January 20 due to clashes in sitios Kahayagan and Katipunan, which
police believed is rooted to land issues.

With the clashes, the source said, teachers were also afraid to return
to the area.

The residents said they asked help from the provincial government of
Bukidnon “but they refused to take action because it is outside their
jurisdiction.”

“Same with Bumbaran (local government unit), they ignored us,” they added.

According to the source from Sitio Canaan, majority of the villagers
in the area are dumagats who settled there since 1994. By that time
they first entered, the source added, the dominant economic activity
among Maranaos
was logging. The land was forested, with no residents
but the settlers.

In 2009, when the area was already cleared and the residents have put
up farms, the source said, the Maranao settlers allegedly came and announced
they will continue cutting the logs.

In 2010, the source said Maranaos allegedly started to collect either
tertia, a third share in the harvest, or rent of P5,000 per hectare.
Some of the residents gave but the rest either resisted or fled
permanently.

The source who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal said there
is rido (clan feud) in the area as the present conflict is dominated
by two bands
of armed men, all Maranaos.

The source said the armed men claimed their harvest and took over
their farms. But the source noted that the Dimas group took the side
of the dumagat farmers. Previously, the Dimas group allegedly harassed
residents like what was done by Mamurak’s group.

Sitio leaders and barangay officials of Dominorog passed resolutions
urging the military to set up a detachment in the area to deter future
clashes. (Walter I. Balane)

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