‘Lumad’ culture ‘bastardized’ by military’s death squads
I write in reaction to the article ‘“Lumad’ caught in crossfire” (Across the Nation, 9/21/14), which made mention of the Alamara, a paramilitary group operating in the hinterlands of Davao del Norte. Alamara is a lumad term that roughly means “extensive and massive tribal war.” Alamara is traditionally waged against invasions or in response to grave transgressions committed against tribe members. However, the term now connotes villainy after the military named its mercenaries Alamara.
The roots of the Alamara group can be traced back to the Arroyo presidency, when the draconian methods of the counterinsurgency program of government caused the number of extrajudicial killings to soar to 1,206 and that of the disappeared to 206. Arroyo’s determination to wipe out insurgency inspired the creation of tribal paramilitary groups and human rights violators such as “The Butcher” ex-general Jovito Palparan.
Paramilitary groups were effectively institutionalized by Executive Order No. 546, allowing the police and military to conscript civilians to beef up the AFP in its crusade against insurgency. Human rights groups here and abroad criticized the presidential order on account of the human rights violations attributed to paramilitary groups. One of the most prominent massacres attributed to paramilitary organizations is the Ampatuan massacre, dubbed the single deadliest event for journalists; it killed 58 people, including 32 journalists. Italian priest and missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio was also killed by a paramilitary group called the Bagani Force which had ties with the 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
President Aquino has reneged on his campaign promise to revoke EO 546. Instead, he reinforced the order with the revival of the martial law era-paramilitary, the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary, as “investment defense forces” to protect mining and other projects.
In Mindanao, 13 “indigenous” paramilitary groups continue to sow terror in the lumad and peasant communities. Among these are the San Fernando Matigsalug
Tribal Datus (Sanmatidra), Bungkatol Liberation Front (Bulif), the New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (Nipar) under the 8th Infantry Battalion, the Salakawan or Wild Dogs (created by the 402nd Infantry Brigade), the Alamara in Northern Mindanao, and the Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force in Caraga. Eleven cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples and advocates are attributed to these paramilitary groups.
The culture of impunity in the country is propped up by the death squads that are being coddled by the military and the government itself. The Aquino administration must cease the use of paramilitary groups and militias. We denounce the bastardization and debasement of lumad culture and defense system by arming the lumad against their own kin, making them pawns against the fight against insurgency.
—PIYA MACLIING MALAYAO,
Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas,
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