OVER a 100 teachers, students, and members of a progressive group were allegedly blocked on Monday by the military and some members of paramilitary group recognized by the lumads while on their way to a school in Talaingod, Davao del Norte to attend a founding anniversary and festival.
Save Our Schools (SOS) Network in Southern Mindanao Spokesperson Rius Valle said in a phone interview with Sun.Star Davao that 116 persons including 44 elementary and high school students were not able to reach the Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center since they were blocked by the military and members of the paramilitary group whom they recognized were allegedly armed with bows, spears, and bolos.
They were allegedly blocked at Sitio Daligdigon, Barangay Dagohoy in Talaingod at the checkpoint of the 68th Infantry Batallion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Valle said that their group ventured into the school to attend its 11th founding anniversary on Wednesday and celebrated the Bwalawan Festival set today.
Valle added that they were forced to stay at a church in Talaingod for the mean time due to the incident while they were negotiating with the authorities but they will have to go to Tagum City to find a place to stay for the night to ensure their security.
The group also negotiated with the Municipal Tribal Council headed by Pilar Libayao so that they may be allowed entry in the area, however, the council did not let them pass through the checkpoint since they do not have a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), Valle told Sun.Star Davao explaining further that they do not have to show such document since they were not there to do business or harm the ancestral domain of the lumads but simply to attend the school event.
An FPIC is a “policy of the state that no concession, license, permit or lease, production-sharing agreement, or other undertaking affecting ancestral domains will be granted or renewed without going through the process laid down by law and the revised guidelines,” according to www.iflr.com.
“We are just asserting our rights to travel as citizens of this country without intentions of doing harm but simply to attend the activity of a private-ran school,” Valle explained in the vernacular.
The group then resorted to seek the help of Pilar’s son Talaingod Mayor Basilio Libayao to ask for assistance regarding their situation but Valle said that they were only able to meet the Mayor’s secretary who conveyed a message to them saying that the mayor ordered to tell the group that they shall coordinate with the Municipal Tribal Council since it is within the council’s jurisdiction to deal with matters of ancestral domain.
Their group returned to the area where the rest of the participants had been allegedly halted by the paramilitary.
Valle told Sun.Star Davao Monday that they did not intend to go back to Davao City but they will continue to conduct a negotiation with the group who blocked them until they will be allowed entry into the school.
Acting Spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division Lieutenant Alexandre Caballes told Sun.Star Davao that the alleged members of the paramilitary that the progressive groups and the rest of the participants are pertaining to were actually a group of Bagani, protector of the rights of the lumads in their communities, who established their own checkpoint in the area so that they could keep track of people who might cause a stir in their communities.