Caraga Region-based Tribal Coalition of Mindanao
The Caraga Region-based Tribal Coalition of Mindanao (Tricom) on Monday expressed its wish to have a “heart-to-heart” talk with no less than President Benigno Aquino III himself.
Tricom president, Forester Victoriano Vidal and Mamanwa-Manobo of Agusan Tribal Coalition or Mamastrico founding chairman Datu Dapeg, told the Philippines News Agency they want the Chief Executive to know the truth about the plight of nearly 300,000 indigenous peoples in the region.
The Manobos, Mamanwas and Higaonon tribes are the major IP groups in the region.
Vidal and Dapeg lamented that despite the huge, rich forest and mineral resources found in the IPs’ ancestral domains, Lumad people in Caraga Region are still suffering from wanton poverty, are uneducated and with the highest illiteracy rate and even high mortality rates due to the lack of doable and realistic health care and preventive health programs.
“We wanted a doable, realistic road map program of the government for our poor brother and sister Lumads, not just lip service and propaganda,” Datu Dapeg and Forester Vidal said.
“We have been silent about growing IP problems in the region all these years. Now we want our voices heard by no less than President Aquino who, in his campaign speech vowed to his bosses, the Filipino people, that we can now start to dream. We want to convert that dream into reality but how? That’s the reason we want to talk to P-Noy to ask him how?” Vidal said.
The two IP leaders clarified they have nothing against regional directors and office personnel of different concerned government agencies in Caraga Region.
But they said local officials always consult first the national government in Manila, such that solution to their problems take a long time to be given.
Meanwhile, the Caraga Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) has created the “Task Force Kitcharao” to solve the evacuation crisis situation in Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte provinces.
Task Force Kitcharao is headed or chaired by Fr. Lito Clase who is Apostolate of the Indigenous People of the Diocese of Butuan while Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Caraga regional director Atty. Marilyn Pintor as vice chairman.
The task force has been formed to facilitate transfer of the Lumad evacuees at Barangay Imadejas covered court to the evacuation centers of their respective LGUs with the time frame of 14 working days from April 3, 2012, the day the task force was commissioned.
To date, there are over 243 families with about 1,000 men, women and children from the mountains of Palidan in Barangay Mahaba and Sitio Losong, Barangay Puting Bato in Cabadbaran City, in Agusan del Norte province.
Sitio Manhumapay in Zapanta Valley, Barangay Bangayan, Kitcharao, again in Agusan del Norte; Barangay Ferlda in Alegria, and Barangay Camam-onan, Guigaquit, both in Surigao del Norte who have evacuated their communities and were staying in different evacuation sites in both provinces.
Some 445 evacuees have opted to make Barangay Imadejas covered court here in Butuan City as their temporary shelter for two weeks now after they alleged they were driven out from the Agusan del Norte provincial capitol grounds.
But Army Col. Ronald Albano, commanding officer of the 402nd Brigade, accused the New People’s Army (NPA) of using the evacuees’ issue as the communist rebels’ propaganda tool while also using various groups like NGOs in helping the Lumad evacuees as accomplice.
Albano warned said groups with criminal charges for forcing the evacuees to flee their homes and bringing them to Butuan City for propaganda.
In the latest development about the evacuees here in Butuan City, Datu Maribojoc, a Mamanwa leader and one of the evacuees, claimed they all wanted to go back to their homes but continued military presence and military operations were preventing them from doing so.
Residents and barangay officials of Barangay Imadejas have already requested the evacuees to return to their respective hinterland homes because the barangay will now use the covered court turned evacuation center for official activities and meetings.