ESPERANZA, Agusan del Sur – Chieftains and sectoral leaders of the Higaonon tribe in Northeastern Mindanao (Caraga Region 13)) and Northern Mindanao (Region 10) are now united to make their respective highland communities more productive while fully supporting the government’s peace and development program.
The unification effort by the tribal leaders and indigenous people (IP) leaders in Regions 13 and 10 came about during the gathering dubbed as “Kaamulan 2020 (Pug-Ipo Ku Domalongdong).”
This “Kaamulan 2020” was also participated in by top government officials and line agencies of the government during the activity held at Barangay Salug, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur on Monday, Nov. 23.
More than 100 IP leaders and members coming from the provinces of Caraga region and Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon provinces of Northern Mindanao region, together with the Army commanders from 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade and its operationally controlled Battalions, the 23rd IB and 26th IB, converged in the activity themed as “Gathering of Tribal Leaders of Higaonon” to amalgamate and unite for peace and development.
The gathering, initiated by the Esperanza Higaonon Tribal Council (EHTC) spearheaded by Datu Saulogan Nilo Manpatilan, the IP Mandatory Representative of Agusan del Sur, was attended by the Provincial and Municipal IP Mandatory Representatives and IP leaders of the neighboring provinces.
The “Kaamulan 2020” provided a venue for dialogue among the tribal leaders in order to effectively respond to the government’s effort for peace and development in their ancestral domains and come up with an agreement to fully support the National Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), 402nd Brigade Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer Maj. Francisco P. Garello, Jr. told The Manila Bulletin on Wednesday.
The leaders took a bold step in taking a strong stance by unifying the strength of all Higaonon tribes and elevate to another level their aspiration to be free from the domination of the CPP-NPA terrorists and the exploitation of their ancestral domains, Garello said..
Agusan del Norte IPMR official Eddie Ampiyawan issued the call to support the initiative of Datu Saulogan.
He said that with the assistance of the Philippine Army, all the IP leaders shall fearlessly lead in stopping the insurgency problem that persists in their ancestral domains. He said: “Mugnaon nato ang paghiusa sa upat ka probinsya arun batukan ang Teroristang CPP-NPA ug mahan-ay ang programa sa pang-kalinaw. Andam og lig-on kami sa Agusan del Norte nga musuporta sa ginalinya nga kalinaw og kahusay pinaagi niini nga panagtigum.” (We enjoin the unity of the four provinces to address the terrorist CPP-NPA problem and to set forth ta clear program. We are ready and strong in Agusan del Norte to support the government’s line for the smooth implementation of the program.)
Nilo Manpatilan, the main organizer of “Kaamulan 2020” and a staunch advocate of the IP’s aspiration to alleviate the poverty and strife experienced by their constituents in their ancestral domains, recognized the 402nd Brigade’s efforts in support of the IP’s well-being.
“Nagpasalamat kaayo mi, with the guidance of the 402nd Brigade and the 4ID, we shall present to the NTF ELCAC our initiatives, particularly in organizing the different sectors such as the IP youth and women who are most vulnerable to NPA recruitment,” Manpatilan said.
He added that despite the challenges, the hope to institute and form the Higanonon tribes of the four provinces has become a reality. “Nadunggan na ang pagsabot sa mga katigulangan nga maghiusa tungod kay naay kaugalingong interes og ambsiyon nga sakupon ang yutang kabilin. Busa kung kinsa man ang malunod sa problema, kinahanglan tabangan sa mga sinilingan na kaliwatan sa upat ka probinsya.” (According to sources, the elders agreed to unify against those who have personal interest and ambition on their ancestral lands.)
In his statement, 402nd brigade commanding general Brig. Gen. Maurito L. Licudine assured the Brigade’s all out support for the said undertaking particularly underscoring the establishment and strengthening of the IP structure where all IP leaders must set their goals for the tribe’s future.
The area of responsibility of the 402nd Brigade covers the provinces of Agusan Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Misamis Oriental where the Higaonon communities are also situated.
“Kinahanglan mubarog kita, tindugan nato ang pagsuporta sa atong gobyerno. Isalikway nato sa atong mga yutang kabilin ang mga teroristang NPA. Palig-onon ang deklarasyon sa persona non grata nga dili makasulod sa inyung yutang kabilin og barugan nato kini,” Brig. Gen. Licudine said. (We need to stand up and support the government. We have to secure our ancestral lands from the communist terrorists. We have to strengthen the declaration of persona non grata on these terrorists.)
Likewise, the 402nd Brigade commander called for the needed commitment of every Higaonon IP leader to induce the surrender of their clan mates who were deceived to join the CPP-NPA terrorist.
He said IP leaders must lead in encouraging their members to return back to the folds of the law and avoid divisiveness among the tribal communities.
“We call all IP leaders and other elders of the tribal communities for the strict guidance of the next generation over the misinterpretation on the IPRA law so that the IP traditions and customs and the foundation that was established will continue,” Licudine said.
“Rest assured that your AFP is always committed and in full support of the IPs’ welfare,” he added.
The Kaamulan 2020 was also attended by Bae Melanie Polinar, IPMR of the Municipality Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental, Datu Makayuba Renato Sumbungan, IPMR of Malabalay City of Bukidnon representing IP leaders in the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon, respectively, Randy Rosas of NCIP Caraga, and Edleberto D Bastareche, representing the Provincial Government of Agusan del Sur.