[In the news] Army official accuses Lumads in Bukidnon of conniving with rebels- MindaNews

MindaNews » Army official accuses Lumads in Bukidnon of conniving with rebels.

By Walter I. Balane
February 3, 2012

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/2 Feb) – About 2,500 Lumads under 13 tribal leaders are working with the New People’s Army (NPA) in southern Bukidnon, the highest ranking military official here told the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Wednesday in his update on the military’s pursuit of the rebels.

Col. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade based here, said the indigenous peoples serve as mass support for the rebels making it more difficult for the military to curb insurgency. But a tribal leader refuted Gapuz’s claim, saying the Lumads are only forced to deal with the rebels out of fear and because the government, the military and the police are simply not found in the hinterlands.

Gapuz cited a claim of a tribal chieftain in San Fernando town he named as Datu Onkit, who facilitated the surrender of former rebel Benjamin Salusad last year.

Salusad, along with 79 other alleged NPA members, surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Maramag town on Nov. 15. They turned in 25 high-powered firearms.

Only 31 of the surrenderees were said to be fulltime combatants and 49 were members of the Milisya ng Bayan (People’s Militia). Seventy of them were males. The surrenderees belong to the Tigwahanon, Matigsalug and Manobo tribes of the municipality of San Fernando.

Gapuz told the provincial board there are only about 60 to 80 armed rebels in southern Bukidnon under Guerilla Front 6 and Guerilla Front 53 of the NPA. He added that the Lumads serve as their mass base.

But board member Roelito Gawilan, a Matigsalug chieftain who represents the association of barangay councils in the board, refuted Gapuz’s pronouncement.

“The Lumads serve as no mass base for the rebels. They have no alliance with the NPA,” he said. The tribal leader stressed that the Lumads were forced to deal with the rebels only because the NPAs are the only ones who reach out to them in the remote areas.

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