A two-page letter retrieved by members of the Higaonon tribe in the hinterlands of Esperanza town, Agusan del Sur, showed the supposed intent of the communist New People's Army (NPA) to kill more indigenous peoples (IPs) in the province.
The letter was recovered by Higaonon tribesmen on January 2, 2020, during the burial of Datu Bontola Tinaghao Mansinugdan in Kinabonglohan Creek, Kinamaybay, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.
Datu Bontola, along with his 11-year-old son, was seized by NPA rebels in Upper Agsabo, Kinamaybay on December 31, 2019. He was executed by the NPA near the Kinabonglohan Creek on New Year's Day.
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Caraga (NCIP-13) Regional Director Ferdausi Cerna said he believes the letter was intentionally left by the NPA in the area where they executed Datu Bontola to warn the rest of the Higaonon tribe.
This is a warning to kill more IPs, especially those leaders who cut ties with the communist movement and decided to support the government, said Cerna, who provided the Philippine News Agency with a photo of the letter on Friday (January 10).
The first part of the letter reads:
Alang sa mubasa. Mga pahimangno sa NPA para sa mga BULIF o Alimaong apil sa mga nagakontra o nagapanganti nga makigbatok sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan nga undangon na gyud ang pagsunod gukod batok sa amo aron dili na mo masilotan. (To the readers. A warning to BULIF or Alimaong including those who are against or those who wish to fight the revolutionary movement to stop going after us so that you will not be punished.)
The warning was addressed to BULIF or Alimaong, the group that Cerna said was coined by the NPA to Higaonons who revolted against the rebels' control of the tribe in the area. BULIF stands for Bungkatol Liberation Front.
THREATENING LETTER. The purported letter left by communist guerillas in the area where they executed Datu Bontola Tinaghao Mansinugdan in Brgy. Kinamaybay, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur on New Year's Day. The letter warned tribe members against cooperating with government troops, lest they suffer the fate of the murdered tribal leader. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)
Alimaong, Cerna said, is a term for the warriors of the Higaonon tribe.
The letter warned Higaonons of punishment should they keep resisting the NPA.
Kamong mga bantay tunob ayaw namog langan-langan samtang wala pa mo nakahimo og dakung kadaut undangon gyud nang sigeg report sa bulig/sundalo kung makita among tunob (To those who watch our steps, do not waste time while you have not yet inflicted considerable damage and stop reporting to, or provide assistance, to the soldiers when you see our footprints), the letter further read.
The letter also warned that death would come to those who disobey the communist rebel movement, as what it had done to Datu Bontola.
Ang pinakadakung sala ni Bontola: apil siya nag guide sa sundalo panahon na raid ang kauban sa bukid Kilagnay tuig 2014. Mao nga gisilotan namao og kamatayon. Iyang patayng lawas toa sa gibiyaan sa iyang bata (The biggest crime of Bontola: he was among those who guided the soldiers during the raid of our comrades in Mount Kilagnay in 2014. That's the reason why he was punished with death. His dead body is there where we left his son)."
Cerna said the letter was also meant to sow fear among the Higaonon tribesmen in the area.
When the tribes feel fear then they start to experience difficulties in protecting their ancestral domains he added.
He also emphasized that communist ideology is not fit to IP communities especially in their culture and tradition.
15 IP leaders murdered in Caraga
Cerna said the NPA killed a total of 15 IP leaders in Caraga Region in 2019.
He said the NPA would kill any tribe member based on suspicions that he or she had already decided to cut their ties with the NPA and their legal fronts.
Datu Bontola is the first IP leader they killed this year in the region. There is another IP leader still missing until now in Surigao del Sur previously seized by the NPA, the NICP official added.
He was referring to the case of Taloy Aguilo Astudillo who was abducted by the NPA on December 3, 2019, in Sitio Inadan, Magroyong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.
The leaders of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur and the family of the victim have already sought the help of the government to find the location of Astudillo.
I will call for a meeting with the tribal leaders in the region to discuss this matter. This is a serious threat to us and our ancestral lands, Cerna said.
He added that copies of the letter were also sent to concerned authorities to seek appropriate measures to protect IP communities from the rebels.
Source: Philippines News Agency