Mandaya tribesmen ask gov’t protection from NPA attacks

MATI CITY -- After the killing of one of their respected leaders last Dec. 30 when attacked by heavily armed New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Caraga, Davao Oriental, members of Mandaya tribe in the province are now asking the government for protection as they fear of more atrocities from the rebels in the coming days.

"We are a peace-loving people. We don't like violence. We don't want the violent culture of the New People's Army rebels - that is why we shooed them away from our peaceful communities."

This was the cry of Mandaya leaders in a statement Saturday as they hoped and prayed for respect on their peace-loving culture as a tribe.p>Mandaya leaders also expressed optimism the government would provide protection on them against future attacks from the NPAs.

"We are always caught in the crossfire. Our communities are not and should not be the battlegrounds of government and rebel forces," they added.

Tribal leader Copertino Banugan, together with his brother and a nephew were all killed in an NPA attack last December.

Mandaya leaders now believe the attack signified the dark intention of the NPAs to dominate and eventually grab their ancestral domains long been protected by Banugan and other leaders.

"We know the rebels are out to grab our ancestral domains. We will die for it no matter what. United, we will be able to repulse them from our tribal communities," said Kristine Banugan, the young daughter of the slain Datu Banugan in the same statement.

In a meeting earlier this week, Mandaya leaders, together with the Provincial Tribal Council of Davao Oriental passed a resolution urging the national government to look into their plight.

"The brutal killing of tribal chieftain Banugan is a clear incursion to the rights of the indigenous peoples to self-governance and self-determination. The Provincial Tribal Council of the Province of Davao Oriental strongly demand that the protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples be given preferential attention during the panel discussions in the ongoing peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front," the resolution pointed out.

They also asked Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and chief negotiator Secretary Silvestre Bello III "to seriously tackle the issues on the rights of indigenous peoples to govern over their ancestral domains, free from interference of the communist rebels."

They also sent copies of the resolution to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel.

Earlier, Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang condemned the recent attack in Caraga town that killed Datu Banugan.

The governor also assured the people in the area of the continued support from the provincial government. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency