Hostage-taking in Agusan Del Sur exposes bankruptcy of US-Arroyo regime’s security policy

By Maria Malaya

Spokesperson, NDFP-North Eastern Mindanao Region

Other versions: Bisaya

We condemn the hostage taking of civilians by the armed group of Undo Perez as it is unjustifiable to use innocent victims as shield for any political or personal objective. On the other hand, we denounce the OBL policy launched by the AFP and the US-Arroyo regime which created the conditions that culminated in the desperate hostage taking by the Undo Perez group. We particularly denounce the formation of different armed groups among the lumad people for the greedy interest of few leaders and the military, to destroy the unity of the lumad people and wipe out the revolutionary movement.

Last December 8, 2009, Datu Kalpet's forces led by Dungay Brital attacked Undo Perez's group which was followed by another fight between the two groups. To defend itself, the Undo Perez group took hostage 78 innocent civilians in Sitio Maitom, Brgy. San Martin, Agusan del Sur and demanded the disarming of their enemies – the armed group of Dungay Brital, Datu Kalpet's men. Through negotiations, the hostages were released in trickles and the Undo Perez group surrendered with 13 firearms after the military and the government assured them that the Undo Perez group will be disarmed.

The rival armed group of Undo Perez in one side and the group of Datu Kalpet and Dungay on the other, are all former LUPAKA members (Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Katawhan) organized and armed by Major Macanas under the leadership of Col. Carolina. The same groups became the Bagani Force under the Task Force Gantangan. In essence Datu Kalpet's group was favored and illegally armed with more than 30 firearms by the military with its considerable contributions as profits from gold mining in Sitio Manhulayan increased. They also help the military in its actions against the NPA activities in the mining areas.

It is by this that Datu Kalpet became powerful and started abusing and grabbing land areas. One of those from whom it grabbed land was the family of Undo Perez. It is also believed that Datu Kalpet ordered the killing of Maning Perez for control of the area. Businessmen in gold mining have been quietly complaining against Datu Kalpet because of his grabbing mining areas from others.

It is not true that what happened was tribal war. The truth was, this was the result of the OBL policy of the AFP and the US-Arroyo regime as it armed the different lumad groups along the interest of military officials and politicians of illegal logging and mining in lumad areas. This is also part of the policy of dividing lumad groups to destroy the unity of the lumad people and their just struggle for self-determination. In fact the family names of members of the different groups are mostly the same. There are siblings fighting for logging and mining areas.

In the past when the revolutionary unity of the lumad people were strong and not destroyed by the creation of counter-revolutionary armed groups like the LUPACA, BULIF, Wild Dogs and Bagani Force of the Task Force Gantangan, the lumad people lived in harmony and peace, their livelihood developing, there were no bandits and private armies harassing the people.

In connection to this, the NPA raided the camp of the armed group of Datu Kalpet to disarm and disband its private army in the mining area. The plan was only to disarm and not engage the armed group of Datu Kalpet in combat. But said group refused to disarm and fired first to the NPA force tasked to disarm them so that the NPA were forced to fire back. The firefight lasted for almost 5 hours, but said NPA unit failed to disarm Datu Kalpet's private army.

In connection to this, the NPA would like to make it clear that businessmen are free to enter and do business in NPA areas, but they should not be armed and they should abide to the policies of the revolutionary movement with regards to protecting the environment, defending the just interest of the peasants, lumad and workers.

We call on the lumad people to not believe the intrigues spread by the military and lumad leaders which serves their interests while the people suffer and the environment is destroyed. The true interests of the lumad people for the rights to self-determination should be upheld.