Flashback Wednesday: Alde Salusad’s Victims

DESPITE the looming death as threats on his life kept coming prior to his slay, the late Datu Jimmy Liguyon, former Barangay Captain of Dao in San Fernando town in Bukidnon and the chieftain of Matigsalog-Manobo tribe in the area, never wavered on his struggle to keep his people’s ancestral domain free from environmental rape as mining companies race to explore it – for gold.

In Bukidnon, chromite and gold are its most dominant resources in terms of value and actual production as cited in the Development and Physical Framework Plan of the province for 2014 to 2019. The province categorizes Barangay Dao in San Fernando town and barangays Gango and Kinawe in Libona town as leading sites for gold. Several small-scale gold mining is ongoing in these sites.  

Datu Jimmy intended to keep the land where home and food are secured and culture preserved. He was the vice-chairperson of Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO), a lumad organization in Bukidnon, and also a member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines before bullets felled him in front of his three children on March 5, 2012.

San Fernando’s lumad butcher Alde “Butsoy” Salusad who is heading the New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR), a lumad paramilitary group operating in the area, shot Datu Jimmy in cold blood.   

Before his death, Datu Jimmy experienced the worst harassment from a certain Angge Dal-anay, a leader of Triom Force, who was allegedly hired by San Fernando Matigsalog, Tigwahanon, Manobo Tribal Datu Association (SANMATRIDA) to threaten and harass Datu Jimmy.

Datu Jimmy was on his way home from a protest action on human rights held in Cagayan de Oro City when suddenly armed men blocked his, and his wife, Sharon’s, way. They then tied his hands. Sharon protested, but the group also tied her hands. They were brought inside an abandoned house.

There, Dal-anay lectured him on the better life of the lumad community once the large-scale mining begins its operations. Later on, Datu Jimmy and Sharon were released.

Datu Jimmy remained unfazed after that incident and continued defending the rights of his people to keep their ancestral land.

Blood splattered on his child’s face

“Sa dihang nadunggan namo ang unang buto, akong mama, akong mga anak ug ako, mihapa sa yuta. Unya, misunod ang ikaduha nga buto. Nikamang ko ug nilili ko arun makita nako unsay nahitabo. Nakita na lang nako akong bana nga nagdupa sa bangko ug naligo sa iyang dugo. Paglakaw gyud ni Butsoy, midagan ko paingon sa akong bana, abi nako okay pa siya pero wala na man diay siya kinabuhi. Ang among kinamanghuran, si Chacha, grabe ang hilak diha sa kilid sa iyang amahan (When I heard the first shot, my mother, my children and I dropped on the ground. Then, we heard the second gunshot. I crawled and peeked to check what was going on. I saw my husband slumped on the wooden bench and bathed in his own blood. As soon as Butsoy left the house, I ran toward my husband hoping he could still be okay, but he was gone. Our youngest child, Chacha, kept wailing beside her father,” recalled Sharon in an interview with this writer in July 2012.

Before Datu Jimmy was shot, Sharon saw people coming to their house at around 6:30 in the evening while she was preparing dinner at the kitchen. Their children, Emilio, Arcel and Chacha, were with Jimmy at the porch when the visitors arrived. Sharon overheard the suspect ask her husband if there were soldiers around since Butsoy feared he might have a chance meeting with them that could result to exchange of fire. Datu Jimmy replied there was none.

Butsoy then summoned Datu Jimmy to transfer seat and told Chacha to get inside the hut. Sensing trouble, Chacha didn’t move and, instead, tightened her grip as she held her father’s hand and moved towards the bench. When they were about to sit, Butsoy fired his M16 at Datu Jimmy, with the little girl at his side. The blood splattered on Chacha’s face.

Butsoy and his men left Datu Jimmy’s house like nothing happened. Butsoy is Liguyon’s distant relative. 

Before Butsoy arrived, Datu Jimmy had reminded his son, Randy, to prepare the things he needed in the farm. Randy then left his father’s house to prepare dinner for his family. As he walked home, he heard gunshots. He ran back to his father’s house and saw the lifeless Datu Jimmy slumped on the bench.

“Nakita pa nako si Butsoy nga milakaw palayo sa balay. Unya, ang among silingan misinggit ug nangutana sa iya nganong gipatay niya akong amahan. Gi-gingnan siya ni Butsoy nga ang wala pagpirma sa akong amahan sa usa ka papel nga maghatag sa pagtugot sa SANMATRIDA sa pagmina sa Dao mao ang hinungdan sa kamatayon sa akong amahan (I saw Butsoy left our house. One of our neighbors shouted at him asking why he killed my father. Butsoy told the neighbor that my father’s refusal to sign a document allowing SANMATRIDA to mine Dao was the reason he was killed,” said Randy in an interview with him also in July 2012.

SANMATRIDA has been applying for a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) of 52,000 hectare including Barangay Dao, which is rich in gold. However, residents in Dao opposed the inclusion of their village since they are also applying for their ancestral domain title. SANMATRIDA leaders allegedly supported the formation of NIPAR.

Despite the warrant of arrest issued against Butsoy on the murder of Datu Jimmy, he remains freely roaming in San Fernando sowing terror to his fellow lumad who opposes him and his group’s push for mining and other capitalist ventures that sell out lumad rights. The Municipal Trial Court in Malaybalay City issued the warrant in May 2012, but the police has not arrested the butcher as of this writing.

Dao people, first to campout

The Dao evacuees were the first group to campout outside the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol. They put up makeshift tents and stayed there for five months to ensure their safety as they waited for Butsoy’s arrest.  

The Dao people at that time only wanted to go home and share decent meals on their tables. All they wanted was the comfort of their huts and to live without fear. In the span of six months in 2012, another lumad family belonging to the Tigwahanon tribe in Sitio Kiranggol in Barangay Dao in San Fernando also sought sanctuary at the campout after Datu Jimmy’s people left the campout.

During the campout, Zubiri admitted telling the Dao evacuees to stay there because it’s a symbol of their right to peaceably assemble. He wanted them to stay there until something concrete could happen. “If they’re removed, the story would just die and justice will never be served,” Zubiri had said.

Later, Zubiri persuaded the first protest campers to go home in August 2012.

The Dao evacuees took the provincial government’s offer of money to start anew and return to their homes with the government’s promise of security in the village. The campout resulted to ill-health among the old, women and children. Some also gave birth during their stay at the encampment.

The Dao evacuees had no options – only uncertainties. To stay at the protest campout didn’t guarantee them their life since it disrupted their work that provides them their needs. If they’d go home, fear and capitulation await them from Salusad and his men. Some were compelled to go home and took the risk as options to preserve their lives were unavailable.

Meanwhile, the Liguyon family refused to go home at that time and went on hiding as they continued to pursue justice.    

“Dili nako pwede isugal among seguridad. Dili mi mamauli hangtud ang mga Salusad labi na si Butsoy madakpan. Dapat sila bungkagon ug kuhaan sa mga armas. Dili nako mabasol ang uban nga pamilya nga mipili sa pagpauli sa Dao kay lisud kaayo ang kinabuhi sa kampuhan. Nanghinaut ko nga walay trahedya nga muabot sa ilang kinabuhi ug sama kang Jimmy magpabilin sila nga mahinugtanon sa ilang pagsupak sa mga large scale mining nga pasuloray (I cannot compromise our security. We will never go home until the Salusads especially Butsoy will be arrested. They should be disbanded and disarmed. I cannot blame the other families who chose to go home because life at the campout is very difficult. I am hoping nothing tragic happens to them and that like Jimmy they’d remain steadfast in opposing the looming large scale mining),” Sharon had said.

Datu Jimmy’s remains were moved to Halapitan village where there is a police station. His wife, relatives, friends and colleagues at KASILO attended his wake. They wanted him buried at Halapitan cemetery so his children can attend the burial, but their practices on burying the dead won’t allow it. It is taboo to bury him outside the ancestral domain. According to their belief, it would bring mischief and curse. The police, however, couldn’t guarantee everyone’s safety in Dao, so the family decided that the children would have to leave town and seek safer places. It was only Sharon who buried her husband back in their ancestral lands.

Staunch defender

Datu Jemboy Mandaget also known as Jeffrey, is one of the chieftains of the Tigwahanon tribe that’s currently taking refuge at Bukidnon Provincial Capitol grounds in Malaybalay City after his community in Sitio Tibugawan in Barangay Kawayan, also met harassment resulting to death on Juy 31, 2016.

Witnesses accused Butsoy of sowing the terror in the community that killed the pregnant Makinit Gayoran who was also carrying a child, and injured nine others attending the wedding.

Datu Jemboy remembers Datu Jimmy’s kindness and courageous leadership saying, “Ako nga ginatan-aw nga bayani si Datu Jimmy tungod sa iyang pagserbisyo sa katawhan diha sa pagpanalipud sa yutang kabilin nga mao ang among kinabuhi, merkado ug ospital, ug usab ang iyang pagka-maayong tawo (I look up to Datu Jimmy as a hero because of the way he served the people through defending our ancestral domain which is our life, market and hospital, and also his kindness).”

Datu Jemboy recalled how Datu Jimmy won the barangay captain post without vote-buying. “Kung dili pa maayo ang nahimo ni Datu Jimmy maglisud siya pagdaug sa pagka-barangay kapitan kay wala man siyay kwarta. Pero, daghan gayud ang mipili ug misalig kaniya (If Datu Jimmy wasn’t good, he would have had a hard time winning the barangay captain elections since he didn’t have money. But, majority chose and trusted him),” shared Datu Jemboy.

For her part, Diden Landasan, chairperson of the Pigyayungaan Lumad Organisation in Bukidnon, Datu Jimmy was an epitome of a hero who gave himself for others.

“Wala mi nagkahimamat ni Datu Jimmy adtong buhi pa siya, pero ang mga nadunggan nako bahin sa iya nagpakita lamang sa iyang pagkabayani diha sa iyang walay pag-undang nga tabang kanamo. Sakit palangdongon nga sa kadugay na sa iyang kamatayon wala pay kahayag sa hustisya (I haven’t met Datu Jimmy when he was still alive, but what I heard about him only showed his heroic act through helping us without letup. It is just so disheartening that up to now, years after his death, there is still no justice.),” Landasan said.

Gradual ethnocide

Despite the measures created to protect the rights of the IPs all over the world, the Philippines has remained steadfast on its economic development plan without regard for the rights of the communities affected whether in the remotest areas in the countryside or in highly urbanized cities.    

Global land grabbing has been rampant in most parts of Mindanao. The mountains groan in pain as mining, logging, and agricultural developments continue to destroy them and the people who inhabit them.

Sister Stella Matutina of the Missionary of Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing and the secretary general of Panalipdan Mindanao (Protect Mindanao) said the systematic killing of human rights defenders in the country targets the lumads and small farmers whose homelands are rich in natural resources.

The continuous killings, harassments, displacements, and hunger of the lumads are tantamount to ethnocide. Mining and militarization are the double whammies of their lives. Large-scale mining companies will hawk them away from their lands through militarization. Mining comes in and destroys the forests that provide them food. Taking away their land and food slowly kills them until their tribe will be obliterated.###

[The writer is a research fellow of the Mindanao Interfaith Institute for Lumad Studies. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro. Ms. Cantal-Albasin holds a degreee in Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School in Manhattan, New York, and is a 2009 Fellow of the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowship Program.]