Lumad leader of Higaonon escapes attack

Lumad leader of Higaonon in Opol, Misamis Oriental seeking land reclamation escaped an attempt to kill him.

Roy Ibarat, leader of Pangalasag (Shield), a lumad organization of Higaonon, was shot by alleged military personnel belonging to the 58th Infantry Battallion, Dennis Belena, on August 20.

Before the incident, Belena had already been harassing Ibarat. At around 10:00 in the morning of August 18, 2017, fifty members of Pangalasag, headed by Ibarat, sought to reclaim their ancestral domain covering 520 hectares in Barangays Bagocboc and Tingalan in Opol. This was through the community’s campaign dubbed as “Bungkalan,” (Cultivate/Till) organized after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ruled in their favor against A Brown Company.

In the morning of the same day, Belena, along with three other individuals who identified themselves as soldiers of the 58th Infantry Battalion, reportedly visited the residence of Ibarat in Barangay Tingalan. However, only Ibarat’s wife, Sanelyn was in their house.

Later that evening, Ibarat received a text message from Belena asking to meet him. The two used to work as security guards of the National Food Authority from 1999 to 2003. Belena explained that he is already a soldier and has “confirmed” reports of Ibarat’s involvement with the New People’s Army. Belena further expressed that he wished to facilitate Ibarat’s surrender to his battalion commander and clear his name.

At around 3:00pm of August 20, 2017, Ibarat agreed to see Belena at his residence. They met at a waiting shed a few distance from his house. Belena was accompanied by three men in plain clothes aboard two motorcycles with no plate numbers. Belena came over to talk to Ibarat while the three other men stood near the shed. Belena again insisted that Ibarat should surrender. Ibarat denied the accusation.

The three other men suddenly rushed to the shed claiming they saw some individuals in black clothes hiding behind the grassy portion near the shed. Belena ordered Ibarat to check to confirm the sighting. Ibarat walked towards the grassy portion about ten meters away from the shed and found no one. He was asked to check again. When he turned his back, he heard shots fired twice. Two bullets whizzed pass his head. Frightened, he ran for his life. He saw Belena and the three other men ran, boarded their motorcycles, and fled the scene.

The next day, Belena sent a text message to Ibarat apologizing for the incident claiming he accidentally pulled the trigger of his gun. He once more urged Ibarat to surrender to keep his family safe. Ibarat, however, believed the two gunshots were not accidentally but deliberately fired to kill him.

Pangalasag has been fighting for the right of the Higaonon of Bagocboc and Tingalan to their ancestral domain. The land has been in dispute ever since A Brown, a company engaged in oil palm and energy projects, started to put up an oil palm plantation without even a consultation with the Higaonon farmers. Two Pangalasag leaders had already died, their killings related to the resource conflict. ( image from KATUNGOD LUMAD)

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