AFP-bandit group collusion denounced

21 February 2012

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The Herminio Alfonso Command-Guerrilla Front 53 Operations Command of the New People's Army in Southern Mindanao strongly condemned the wanton violations of the Federation of Manobo-Matigsalog Tribal Council (Femmatric) of the human rights of Lumad in Marilog District, in Bukidnon province and in Arakan Valley.

Femmatric is led by Lito Gawilan, who is involved in landgrabbing, robbery, selling of fake gold bars and extortion activities against small businessmen along the national highway in Bukidnon.

Gawilan claims to represent the Matigsalog and Manobo tribes in saying that he defends their ancestral lands. In fact, he has been facilitating the plunderous operations of rubber plantations and mining concessions because he holds the Certificate of Ancestral Domain covering resource-rich areas like Kitaotao town in Bukidnon province, Arakan municipality in North Cotabato and Marilog District in Davao City.

Colluding with the Femmatric-Gawilan group is the Bunsuran group which is behind the establishment of the Alsa Lumad and Bandido groups. The Blackfighter group is likewise being revived in Salaysay, Marilog and Tambobong, Baguio, Davao City.

The Gawilan group and other bandit syndicates enjoy the protection of the 403rd Brigade and the 8th IB which utilize the Special Operations Teams ostensibly for peace and development in order to suppress Lumad and non-Lumad settlers and organize fake surrenders. The military thus gives the Gawilan group a free hand in sowing terror along the Bukidnon highway.

Due to the Gawilan group's grave violations of the Lumad's human rights, the 403rd Brigade has been suffering serious casualties in successive NPA tactical offensives in Bukidnon. The military has been venting its ire on the Lumad by accusing the leaders of the Bukidnon tribe of supporting the NPA.

Nonetheless, it is only a matter of time before the Lumad masses become fully aware of the Gawilan group's crimes such as the landgrabbing of ancestral lands and the betrayal of ancestral lands in Bukidnon in favor of big multinational mining companies, commercial plantations, logging firms and the like.