Another indigenous activist has added to the increasing figure of extrajudicial killings of Lumad in Mindanao. Lito Abion, 44 years old, a habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) driver, was waiting for passengers when he was fired upon by two gunmen on September 28, 2015.
He was a member of Tagdumahan, a Lumad (collective term for the indigenous peoples of Mindanao) organization in San Luis, Agusan del Sur. Tagdumahan has been resisting the entry of mining in the ancestral lands of the Banwaon and Manobo peoples in Agusan del Sur. The members refused to merge their areas with the group of Mario Napungahan, a chieftain who had been pushing for a unified Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (or CADT, the tenurial instrument imposed by the Philippine government on the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples). They fear that the unified CADT under Napungahan, who is known to be open to mining, would result to the destruction of their lands.
At around 12 noon of September 28, the victim with his fellow drivers, were waiting for passengers at the terminal of Purok 2, Dona Flavia, San Luis, Agusan del Sur. The group was talking when a red Honda XRM motorcycle, with two men, parked nearby. After a few moments, the passenger of the motorcycle pulled out a handgun and fired at Lito. The victim sustained two bullet wounds in his back and another in the nape. The gunman then boarded the motorcycle and left.
Jun-jun, a habal-habal driver who had witnessed the killing, said that it was the same motorcycle the gunmen used when village chieftain Angis Precioso, a founding member of Tagdumahan, was gunned down by suspected state forces under the 29th Infantry Battalion stationed in San Luis, Agusan del Sur December 22, 2014.
Mario Napungahan was a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA). He was recruited by the Philippine Army as a member of the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) when he surrendered. As member of the CAFGU, he joined the military operations of the Philippine Army in the Lumad communities. But holding the title of a datu (one of the community leaders), he used his influence and position to form an armed group known to the community as Rebel Returnees. These armed men function as an informal auxiliary force of the military, joining the state forces in their operations in the communities
Mario accused all Tagdumahan leaders and members who refused to sign the application of a unified CADT as supporters or members of the NPA, passing them as legitimate targets for counter-insurgency operations. In 2005, several members of Tagdumahan– Virgie Solis, Inday Lozada, Mat Morales and Bebot Nuer – were killed by suspected state or state-sponsored elements. They were all accused by Mario as either members or supporters of the NPA. Lito was also among those accused so he was forced to leave San Luis that same year. Lito returned to San Luis only last year, 2014.
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