Displaced Manobo community in SurSur swears allegiance to PH law 

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur, Dec. 7 (PIA) -- Lumad and non-lumad community members of Purok Tubod and in adjacent communities of Sitios Babaraas, Bishop, Nalindog, Tandungan, and Nahikyad wilfully sworn their support to the Philippine Constitution during the joint ceremony of the closing of the conduct of Community Support Program (CSP) operation by 75th Infantry (Marauder) Battalion (75IB) on Saturday, Nov. 27, and the start of the Retooled CSP (RCSP) by the San Miguel Local Government at the open grounds of Purok Tubod, Brgy. Bolhoon, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

This was the communities’ way of retracting their support and membership in the underground mass organization that was established by political officers of CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) Guerilla Front 19 of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC), which are comprised predominantly by the Manobos.

Two years ago, these same Manobos were duped to participate in the “Taktikang Bakwit” of the CNTs and stayed for around a year at the Capitol Grounds of Surigao del Sur. During the residency in the area, their children were sent to Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), non-DepEd learning institutions established in Surigao del Sur. The schools were used by the CNTs to divert intensified military operations against the New People’s Army (NPA), and use as a front to collect funds and resources from foreign donors.

After the IPs’ stay in the bakwit site, they returned to their original community in Sitio Nalindog, but eventually went deeper inland and settled to Purok Bugbog which they thereafter renamed as Purok Tubod.

The oath-taking took place during the Grand Pulong-pulong and Serbisyo Caravan in the area, officiated by Town Mayor Hazel H. Elizalde and witnessed by the Philippine Army, representatives from national government agencies and staff of the provincial government.

A mass wedding, dubbed as “Kasalan sa Barangay” was conducted prior to the event, where 25 Manobo couples of different ages were united in matrimony. Rain poured throughout the day but it did not dampen the excitement and joy of the couples, their entourage, and the whole community.

During the Grand Pulong-pulong, Ltc Jeffrey Villarosa, 75IB Battalion Commander rendered the report and expressed his gratitude to provincial and municipal governments and all members of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF ELCAC) for their unconditional partnership which greatly contributed to the successful conduct of CSP.

“Our strong partnership significantly contributed to winning back the support of our populace. From here on, San Miguel RCSP Team will take the lead in the whole-of-nation approach to provide our communities with government services that are peculiar to them,” Villarosa stated.

Datu Leonilo “Tatay Eloy” Wagdos, Purok Bugbog Chairman, was emotional when he addressed the good Mayor and all other visitors from the different agencies of government. He was very thankful for not giving up on his and the community’s “notoriety."

“Sa pila ka tuig nga nagpuyo ko diri sa among yutang kabilin, walay nagpaka bana kanamo maong kami walay mahimo ug nailad jud sa mga New People’s Army (NPA). Pero sa tabang sa pag abot sa presensya sa mga kasundaluhan sa 75IB dinhi sa among lugar mura kami ug nahulugan ug anghel gikan sa langit nga maoy nakaluwas kanako og sa akong mga katribu, naghatag og kadamlag sa sayup nga pagtoo batok sa atong gobyerno. [In my many years of stay here in our ancestral domain, I did not feel nor receive any support from the government. They are reasons why we got easily deceived by the NPAs. The soldiers of 75IB are angels sent from heaven to save me and my tribesmen. They enlightened our minds of the wrong perception about our government),” Wagdos said.

He was more thankful for the visitors’ presence and for seeing for themselves the condition of their community. He was grateful to the Department of Education (DepEd) for immediately sending teachers to their more than a hundred learners the people behind the construction of a clean and secured water system, communal fishpond, and the basketball court.

He also conveyed to the concerned government agency the community’s desire to have better access basic necessities such as a school for the lumad, infrastructure, electricity, and livelihood program and opportunities.

Concerned government agencies such as the National Commission on the Indigenous People (NCIP), the Regional Health Unit (RHU), the Provincial Agriculture Officer, the Chief of Police of San Miguel, the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MWSDO), Surigao Electric Cooperative (SURSECO), and the DepEd enunciated their commitment to fulfilling the appeal of the tribal leader. 

In his message, San Miguel IP Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Datu Rico Maca, lauded the local government and the Philippine Army for their commitment to ending insurgency in the area.

“Despite the inclement weather and unpleasant road condition, you came here to provide my fellow Manobos the attention that they need which I know will be translated into concrete actions. I am a staunch believer of our government and I will continue to be against CPP-NPA Terrorists because they continue to deceive, exploit, and kill my fellow tribesmen and all other IP tribes in our country. After all, we refuse to be used and exploited by them,” said Maca.

Mayor Elizalde acknowledged the hardships the community members endured and vowed to serve them better.

“Tubod occupies a big space in my heart and I will do all I can to alleviate your condition. The resources of our municipality are limited but Purok Tubod will be among my priority because I know you are among those who need them most. Under my watch, no one will be left behind,” Elizalde said.

Datu Rudy “Baning” Miranda, a highly respected elder of the community, also conveyed his gratitude on behalf of the community and recounted their experiences during their displacement.

“We are like goats who got astray. While we were wandering, we fell into a pond and were trying to swim to stay afloat. We are very fortunate that the troops from 75IB came. They came and saved us just before we all got drowned," he said.

The Provincial Police Office, through the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company (PMFC), distributed gifts to the learners of the School of Living Tradition while municipal government turned-over the basketballs and volleyballs. Food packs courtesy of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the provincial government were also distributed to the communities. 

Upon the conclusion of the event, Lt. Col. Villarosa reaffirmed the commitment of the government and the Philippine Army to serving conflict-affected areas and securing peace and order in the entire province.

“Security and development is a tandem that is inseparable. The Marauder Troopers will always be at the forefront to ensure that there are security and peace in our communities, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged conflict-affected communities such as Purok Tubod and its adjacent communities. As we work on our mandate, we closely partner with all stakeholders so that much-needed interventions can be immediately delivered. Our task here is nowhere close to being over. We are just glad that the “whole-of-nation” is at work in our Area of Operation,” he concluded.  (DMNR/75IB/PIA-Surigao del Sur)



Source: Philippines Information Agency (pia.gov.ph)

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