Displaced Bukidnon residents cry for help

By : Bobby Lagsa Mindanao Today/10:27:40am 07/24/2021


DISPLACED. Jobel Maghinay and his common-law wife Salvacion Abalos with their son Anthony sits inside their four-foot-tall makeshift dwelling along the backroad of Kiantig Botong, Quezon, Bukidnon. Since their displacement in 2017, they, along with one thousand other Manobo-Pulangihon families have been living on the road with little or no government help. (Bobby Lagsa) (Note: This news article was published in the print edition of Mindanao Today on July 21, 2021)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – For the last five years, close to a thousand Manobo-Pulangihon tribal families have been a nameless, faceless people living across the backstreets of Barangay San Jose, Quezon, Bukidnon.

This indigenous community has been displaced from their own ancestral land since 2017 when they were forcefully removed from the area they have been calling home for generations in barangays Kiantig Butong and San Jose in Quezon.

According to Arnel Angcosin, the secretary-general of the Kiantig Manobo-Pulangihon Tribal Association, their land is occupied by Cesar Fortich, Inc. with a Forest Land Graze Management Agreement (FLGMA) No. 122 that expired in 2018.

An FLGMA is a production sharing agreement between a qualified person or corporation and the Philippine government to develop, manage and utilize grazing lands. The FLGMA of Cesar Fortich, Inc. was awarded in 1986.

In 2007, Cesar Fortich, Inc. was renamed to Kiantig Development Corporation and appointed Pablo Lorenzo III as its general manager. Lorenzo is now the town mayor of Quezon.

In 2017, they were forcibly removed from their community on the banks of the Pulangi River. Since then, they now live on the backroads of Barangay Kiantig Butong, with no government to help make their lives better.

Documents from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) given to this paper by Angcosin showed that the contract of Kiantig Development Corporation (KDC) has expired on December 31, 2018.

DENR did not extend the contract, making KDC and Lorenzo squatters of the ancestral domain of the Manobo-Pulangihon tribe.

Vergilino Alima, Bukidnon Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer, in his letter to Lorenzo in January 2019, said “DENR has lost jurisdiction over the said property and it is the office of the NCIP that has exclusive authority to manage and dispose of the above-mentioned property,”

As the historical landowners of the 955 hectares of land, their community filed a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in region 10, CADC-135 on June 5, 1998.

“We have been removed from our land, where our forefathers lived for generations,” said Rolando Anglao, son of Datu Brexio Anglao, the deceased tribal chieftain.

“My cousin, Renato Anglao was murdered in 2017 in the course of our land struggle,” Anglao said.

Renato was the secretary-general of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group (Tindoga) when he was killed by three men.

“We have our documents that showed that we are the rightful owners of the land and that the contract of KDC expired and yet we are the ones being displaced from our land,” Anglao said.

Anglao also loses his hope that they can get assistance from Bukidnon Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri.

“When he campaigned in 2019, he told us that we will be installed in our land, but after he won, he never showed up again, never send in any help,” Anglao said.

Anglao added that Zubiri will not act on Lorenzo’s violations against their tribe as Zubiri is the president of Bukidnon Paglaum Party, with Lorenzo as vice president.

He said that what they are lacking now is the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which is not yet awarded to them although all the pertinent documents were already submitted to NCIP in Manila.

NCIP commissioner Allen Capuyan even visited their community in August 2020, but to their dismay, nothing has happened afterward.

“He came here to take pictures with us, give us his number, and left. Every time we make a follow-up from him, we don’t get any reply,” Angcosin said.

Angcosin, staunch support of President Rodrigo Duterte, said he had lost hope and claimed that bribery and corruption had held their papers hostage.

What is clear is that land rights violations perpetrated by corporations are deeply embedded with the political system, that each entity protects each other’s interests.

They needed help

Former Cagayan de Oro Archibishop Antonio Ledesma who visited the community on July 16 this year, said that what their tribal community needed is immediate help for their hygiene and legal aid for their continued land struggle.

“They need to continue their case, because they have the rights as ‘lumad,’ they have the ancestral domain rights, hopefully that they will help from different government agencies,” Ledesma said.

“They also need legal aid, because it cannot continue without case in court as they have the rights for it,” he added.

Ledesma also called on the parishes of Quezon and Maramag, Bukidnon should also help them,

“Social Action Center of the Diocese can also help. Before there were nuns who helped other land claims (that were successful),” he said.

He added that the government fall short in helping them.

“That they should be given help because that is the spirit of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) law,” Ledesma said.

MASS-SPECC, a cooperative with a wide network of cooperatives all over Mindanao, and former Cooperative Development Authority chairman Orlando Ravanera, sent in food aid worth P50,000 for the displaced community.

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