By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
TANDAG City--The lumad leader in the remote village here who was one of the three reportedly arrested by the military actually turned himself in to the Army camp as New Peoples Army surrenderee, the military claimed.
Captain Francisco Garello, Civilian Military Operations Officer of the 36th Infantry Battallion, said Junie Delicona Catapte aka “Demit” who is said to be member of NPAs militia ng bayan has availed of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), a government intervention initiative to former NPA rebels.
Garello said “Demit” was escorted by soldiers conducting Community Support Program of the Army in their sub village of Poog in going to the 36th IB headquarters in Tago town for processing and interview to avail the E-CLIP
Garfello said “Demit” told them that he decided to surrender due to his desire to go back to the folds of the law and help the government’s peace and development initiatives.
Aside from the surrendered MB, Garello said two other lumad leaders Enecito Catapte and Julito Delicona, both residents of same place, were invited and voluntarily submitted themselves to the CSP team of the 36IB immersed in the sub village of Poog in the village of Maitum in this city and proceeded to the 36th IB camp to help discuss issues and concerns to provide possible resolutions as leaders in their community.
The military denied reports they illegally arrested the three leaders of the Lumad group Sidlak in Tandag, Surigao del Sur.
Capt. Francisco Garello, Civil Military Operation Officer of the 36th IB, said contrary to the allegations of human rights group Karapatan Caraga, and the lumad group Kalumaran, the three Sidlak leaders voluntarily visited their camp and were not arrested. “The Army has no authority to arrest the civilians,” Garello said, “That is a purely police matter,” Garello said after the Karapatan Caraga reported the arrest of the three Lumad leaders, identified as Enecito Catapte, chairperson of the lumad group Sidlak and his companions Junie Catapte and Lito Delicona.
Dulphing Ogan, speaking for the lumad group Kalumaran, said the group Sidlak is a Lumad organization in the hinterlands of Tandag, an affiliate of Kalumaran.
He said the three tribal leaders were allegedly arrested without warrant by elements of 36th Infantray Battalion early dawn Friday in Sitio Poog, Maitom village of Tandag, Surigao del Sur province.
“Cortez and Lanuza strongly oppose the entry of mining and logging concessions in their ancestral lands,” Ogan said.
Prior to the arrest, the leaders were repeatedly invited by soldiers to the 36th IB headquarters in Tandag City. “Soldiers have also been pressuring the leaders to close down their indigenous community school, the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS),” according to Ogan.
Ogan said Lt. Col Xerxes Trinidad, commander of the 36th IB, also spoke about closing down their community school publicly during a rally by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Tandag City in July this year. Inquirer is still trying to reach the 36th IB for comment.
Garello said the Lumad leaders voluntarily went to their headquarters in Tandag City in the morning, stayed there for an hour for the dialog and had gone home afterwards. He admitted soldiers had repeatedly invited them for a dialog in the past and it was the first time the Lumad went to their camp. It could not yet be independently confirmed if the three Lumad leaders had indeed gone home.
In a press statement, Lt Col. Xerxes A Trinidad PA, commanding officer of 36th IB said: “The invitation made by our CSP team with lumad Leaders is an informal meeting to discuss and find possible resolution to issues in the barangay being leaders of their community. Engagement to stakeholders is usually done in order to ensure that government programs are being delivered to the communities which are responsive to the actual needs of their constituents.”
Trinidad stood pat that the three lumad leaders voluntarily submitted themselves to the CSP teams upon invitation and was not forced nor coerced. “As to the surrender, we wanted that alias Demit could avail the E-CLIP in his transition to the mainstream society and help with the government’s initiatives. We reiterate, the 36IB strictly adheres to the laws of the land and respects the human rights and International Humanitarian Law,” he said.
Garello said the three went home around 11:00 in the morning, after completion of the process and discussions and were even given assistance for their transportation.
“KARAPATAN reacts every time the Lumad leaders whom they thought of as their controlled individuals may have shifted support and actively participate to the governments peace and development initiatives”, Garello, said.
“It is true that our CSP teams have repeatedly inviting said Lumad leaders and barangay officials to encourage them in supporting the peace and development efforts of the government. This only proves that troops respect their rights and do not force or arrest them as alleged. But this time, it is different, Lumad leaders in Brgy Maitum, a CPP-NPA affected barangay, turns to the AFP and are now willing to welcome and help the peace and development initiatives of the government,” Trinidad added.
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