Press release from Isabel Santiago, spokesperson of the New People’s Army Southern Mindanao command (February 12, 2012) — In intensifying its landgrabbing, robbery, gold bar trade and extortion, the Federation of Manobo-Matigsalog Tribal Council (Femmatric) led by Lito Gawilan has worsened the suffering of indigenous peoples in Marilog district, Bukidnon and Arakan Valley.
The Herminio Alfonso Command-Guerilla Front 53 Operations Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao scores Femmatric and Gawilan for their gross human rights violations against the Lumads.
Gawilan is desperate to hold his firm grip over the criminal syndicates that are responsible for the series of highway robberies, trading of fake gold bars, confiscating titled lands from non-Lumad settlers, and securing at least a 10 percent stake in the small businesses along the Bukidnon national highway.
Gawilan is misrepresenting the Matigsalog and Manobo tribes, by claiming to protect their ancestral domain in making these areas readily available for rubber plantation and mining concessions. Holding a Certificate of Ancestral Domain (CADT) title covering resource-rich areas of Kitaotao town in Bukidnon province, Arakan town in North Cotabato & Marilog district in Davao City. Gawilan dangles these lands as leverage to obtain more lucrative deals from the capitalists.
Gawilan attempts to mislead tribes in Marilog and Bukidnon by being in territorial dispute with Manobo Matigsalog Tribal council over the control of CADTs. It is a feigned dispute because the inutile NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous People’s) has already given to Gawilan a CADT covering beyond Kitaotao town and well into the boundaries of Arakan and Marilog, in a brazen claim sans consultation with hapless Lumads in these villages. Dividing the spoils with Gawilan who claims Barangay Sinuda as his base, are other opportunist Lumad leaders laying stake in mineral and forest-rich Lumad areas in Davao City like: Luis Lambac and George Mandahay in Marilog; Joel Unad in Baguio district and Ruben Labawan in Paquibato district.
Allied with Femmatric/Gawilan camp is the Bunsuran group that is behind the revival of Alsa Lumad and Bandido armed groups. Blackfighter is also being revived in Salaysay, Marilog and in Tambobong, Baguio district, Davao City.
Backing up Gawilan and his ilk are the military’s 403rd Brigade and the 8th Infantry Battalion that are using peace and development Special Operations team to intimidate Lumads and non-Lumad settlers and stage fake mass surrenders. As if acting on cue, the military keeps its distance from Gawilan’s cabal in Bukidnon highway, careful not to disturb the free flow of arms and money in Bukidnon.
In the vain attempt to explain its heavy casualties following recent NPA military actions in Bukidnon national highway, the 403rd Brigade of the Philippine Army falsely and maliciously contends that 13 Bukidnon tribal leaders are providing “mass support” for the NPA. The military is using Gawilan as its latest icon, because other leaders, like Unad, have increasingly become notorious. Local history has already shown Gawilan clan and family as responsible for decades of landgrabbing, opportunism and sell-out of ancestral domain in Bukidnon. The elderly Gawilan patriarch duped other Lumad leaders in the 1970s by claiming to speak on behalf of all tribes when he secured a deal with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
As the NPA intensifies its tactical offensives to defeat the US-Aquino regime’s counter-revolutionary Oplan Bayanihan, it will not hesitate to exact just retribution against opportunist and despicable Lumad leaders like Gawilan and his cabal. The military need not heap the blame in the Lumad masses when it cannot defend itself from escalating NPA actions. The long suffering of Lumads from the hands of greedy logging corporations, plantation owners and big business and aided by greedy opportunists like Gawilan stir the people’s war and make it even more just and legitimate.