‘NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW’ – protesters cry in Malaybalay rally

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/21 September) Protesters led by Bayan Muna and local support groups staged a march rally around Malaybalay City early Friday afternoon to mark the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

“Never again to Martial Law. Fight for genuine justice,” said one of the streamers carried in the march from the capitol grounds to main street Fortich Street, the public market and back to the capitol grounds.

Then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21, 1972 placing the country under Martial rule. The declaration was officially announced to the public on September 23.

Protesters carried placards also calling for justice for the death of Dao, San Fernando village chief Jimmy Liguyon, who was slain on March 5, 2012 allegedly by paramilitary forces dubbed New Indigenous Peoples Army Reform (Nipar), allegedly backing mining in the area.

The Kaugalingong Systema Igpapasindog Tu Lumadnong Ogpaan (Kasilo) said Liguyon was an anti-mining advocate who opposed the entry of mining operations in the area.

His family and supporters fled Dao on March 14, camped out at the Capitol grounds for months and went home on August 1 after four months and 24 days in evacuation. They went home after a dialogue reached agreement that tribal councils back home will assure their safety.

About 30 families or a total of 135 individuals climbed up four trucks, two each from the municipality of San Fernando and from the provincial government, ending months of stay in tents in the Capitol grounds to exert pressure on the government for the arrest of Aldy “Butchoy” Salusad.

Salusad, the main suspect in the killing of Liguyon, is still at large.

A number of the protesters on September 21 were from Sitio Kirangol, also in Dao village, San Fernando town, who fled on August 2 citing alleged harassment again byNipar.

After the march, protesters held a program in the middle of the junction near the old Bukidnon Provincial Hospital.

A representative from the Organisasyon sa mga Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (Ogyon) sa Bukidnon lamented Bukidnon Provincial Gov. Alex Calingasan’s  Executive Order 87 on September 3 providing “stricter regulations regarding the assembly of individuals staging protests or creating infrastructures within the compounds of the provincial capitol which impedes the normal function of government offices.”

Protesters call it a despotic act from the provincial government when “the people only wanted to express their sentiments” as part of their democratic rights.

The provincial board passed a resolution last week urging Calingasan to assign a space in the Capitol Grounds to be a ‘freedom park.”

Addressing the platoon of police officers and Civil Security Unit personnel of the provincial government deployed to man road blockades at the Capitol grounds, a representative from Kalumaran or Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao hit the alleged harassment they experienced on September 3, the day Calingasan’s order was issued.

Masked men riding in tandem allegedly barged into their protest and destroyed their sound system, allegedly shouted at them to vacate the grounds foe failure to secure permit, and blasted their speakers used in a sports fest to take attention away from the protesters.

In an earlier interview Provo Antipasado, provincial administrator, denied the accusations.

In a statement, Kasilo accused the provincial government to have “orchestrated” the attack.

P/Supt. Oscar Jacildo, Malaybalay City police chief, confirmed deploying a total of six police teams to the Capitol grounds, three each from the Public Safety Company and three from the local police station, including those not in uniform.

He cited the full force of the CSU and two teams from the Land Transportation Office were also deployed.

Protesters also lamented the failure of the police to arrest Salusad, even if Dao residents reported that he is freely moving in the village.

“The arrest warrant issued to the group’s leader, Salusad, remains a worthless piece of paper …” the statement, attributed to Nilo Cabungcal, Kasilo spokesperson, said.

Datu Lapinig Nicomedes Benanos, Talaandig tribal chieftain from Kisanday, Maramag, Bukidnon, appealed to the provincial government to help the Lumad in their struggle to secure their ancestral domain.

The frail datu lamented the government’s failure to address his tribe’s decades struggle to get back at least 260 hectares of their land presently titled by Central Mindanao University.

Protesters also carried streamers tagging President Benigno Aquino III as no different from Marcos. They accused the government’s Oplan Bayanihan as no different from Martial law.

Kasilo cited in their statement that the constant red-tagging and surveillance operations on identified members and leaders of progressive groups have “not toned down a bit.”

The group has called for the government to disband paramilitary groups like Nipar.

Rebecca Aquino, a veteran reporter from a Church-run publication said the protest march gave life to the local commemoration of the Martial Law anniversary in the province.

But she added that protesters were able to use the situation in Dao, San Fernando to connect to the dark years of Martial Law. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)