THE local government of Talaingod in Davao del Norte has placed under state of calamity the interior villages of the Barangay Palma Gil following the exodus of Ata-Manobo residents recently.
The declaration meant the release of a calamity fund–to the tune of P500,000.
A press release from the provincial government of Davao del Norte said the Social Welfare and Development Office has reported “some 557 families or 2,395 individuals were affected by the encounter” and that the evacuees have been given relief assistance.
But the actual number of individuals who have left their homes, and are now in Davao City, only count to 927. And the supposed help? They only so far received 5 sacks of rice–which they returned to the sender.
So where are the other 1,468 Ata-Manobos?
The lumad group Pasaka Federation of Indigenous Peoples of Southern Mindanao said the declaration of state of calamity and the release of P500,000 was suspicious.
Isidro Andalo, chair of Pasaka, now wants to know where the other Ata-Manobos are. He suspects that the number has been padded. He also questioned reports that the relief goods have been distributed by the military.
The reason why the 927 Ata-Manobo natives left Talaingod was because of the intense military operations in Palma Gil. They accused the soldiers of harassing them. The Eastern Mindanao Command has denied this. In a press statement, the military said the exodus of the lumads was caused by the panic brought by the presence of the New People’s Army rebels in the area.
In the same press statement, the military said “the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched focused military and humanitarian operations to address increased New People’s Army presence in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.”
But Pasaka cautioned the public on this, saying the move is apparently an act of deception.
“The military is handing out goods as if to say that their abuses should be tolerated by the people since they give out relief goods anyway,” said Andao. “This is appalling and should not have been tolerated by the LGU of Talaingod.”
The group SalugponganTatanu Igkanugon in a statement said that the military has been distributing relief goods in the area to “bribe the people and divide the lumads, sow intrigue against those who will be against their abusive acts.”
“All of these are permitted by the LGU and its municipal welfare office,” said Indao. “Where do we go now and call for investigation, if all government agencies are tainted with corruption.” | Jefry Tupas, NewsDesk