By Ben Serrano
Barangay officials of Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur confirmed some 2,000 Manobos have fled their homes due to heavy military presence in their communities.
Village chieftain Libby Te said the evacuees were residents of Panac-moan, Han-ayan, Dikoy, Manluy-a, Sitio Km. 14; and Emerald villages who evacuated from their homes Wednesday evening (July 5) for fear of being caught in the crossfire due to on-going military operations in upland areas.
The evacuees are now temporary living at Simowao Tribal Community School with some living at houses of relatives in Sitio Km. 9 which is actually 9 kilometers away from this barangay in bumpy and hilly road ride.
“They told us they already have trauma on what happened in the past like the murders of their three tribal datus and still unresolved killings in the area. This is maybe the reason why out of fear when they saw the military. They left their homes due their trauma,” Te told Caraga News Courier.
The barangay officials are currently preparing and packing food packs for distribution.
“We already coordinated with the Lianga Muncipal Social Welfare office and their MWSD officer Encizo and some MWSD office personnel were here yesterday and together we went to Sitio Kilometer 9 to document the evacuees. They promised to deliver and distribute food packs tomorrow,” Te said
Barangay Diatagon is one of the busiest and most populated barangays not only in Lianga town but entire Surigao del Sur when one of the biggest timber company in Mindanao then, the Lianga Bay Logging Company (now mothballed, not operating) was still operational.
Local officials advised newsmen not to proceed to Km. 9 as of the moment due to security reasons.
As this developed, around 200 students of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), Inc. and 43 volunteer teachers of five (5) Tribal Filipino Community Schools run by the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur, also evacuated.
A total of 633 Lumad students are affected with the suspension of classes due to the evacuation.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said troops belonging to the Army’s 75th IB, 36th IB and 6th Special Forces Battalion, have been conducting military operations in the lumad communities of Lianga, San Miguel and San Agustin towns since July 3.
A stricter military checkpoint was placed in front of the military detachment in Post 1, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, requiring residents and visitors to the schools to show their ID or write their names in a logbook since President Rodrigo Duterte’s Martial Law declaration last May 23.
According to the rights group , the tribal communities currently dislocated just started rebuilding their farms, homes and schools after they, along with 17 other tribal communities were forced to evacuate for a year in Tandag City last September 1, 2015 after the killing of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) chairperson Dionel Campos, Kiwagan Datu Juvello Sinzo and ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca.
The massacre was perpetrated by members of a paramilitary group who were then accompanying operating government soldiers.
In 2015, while in evacuation, 11 lumad school volunteer teachers and community leaders were charged with cases of Human Trafficking (Violation of RA 10364 Section 4 (i)) at the Lianga RTC Branch 28.