The December 3 massacre of eight Lumad in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu happened an hour after Barangay Captain Bebot Lobreta met with Datu Victor Dayan in the Lumad leader's residence, survivors of the massacre and strafing told ABS-CBNNews.
Adina Ambag, the 48-year old sister of the Dayan, who headed the T’boli–Manubo Sdaf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO), said many members of the T’boli community in Sitio Datal Bonlangon saw Lobreta’s arrival, around 9 am, and his departure two hours later.
“We will testify and prove this was a massacre, not the encounter claimed by the military,” Ambag told ABS-CBN News in an interview.
Ambag and Alwina Wali, 18, and other kin are in the capital to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
They will also file separate complaints with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur Extra-Judicial Killings, as well as the Joint Monitoring Committee for the derailed peace talks between President Rodrigo Duterte’s government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Wali’s father, Datu Albelardo, is among six missing Lumad men. Two other men were arrested the day after in Sitio Panamin, where Dayan’s tribe fled following the massacre.
Seven of the slain and all the missing were all engaged in harvest and planting when the “soldiers came blackened the hills,” Ambag said.
“Our sitio is small. We were drying corn in the plaza when the soldiers came," she said.
"We could see our farmers. We saw them go check on why the soldiers had come,” she added.
Shooting started 12 noon, barely five minutes after the troops’ arrival, said the slain datu’s sister.
“We saw our men fall. But we could not see their faces clearly,” Ambag said.
Two hours later, Dayan decided to go look for his sons.
“We begged him not to go. We told him, you will die with your sons,” his sister recalled.
“But he told us, he would rather die than abandon his sons,” she said. “It is not a crime to fight for the truth and our rights, he told us.”
A nephew of Dayan accompanied him. But they had only gone 30 meters, to the site of the community’s well, when “a sniper” felled the datu with shots to the head and the chest.
Within an hour, the community decided to evacuate because they could still see the soldiers on the hills. They walked from 4 p.m. till midnight to Sitio Panamin.
The Armed Forces earlier claimed Dayan and seven other Lumad, including his sons, were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who died in an encounter in the remote South Cotabato village.
The AFP claimed two soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion died and three others were injured in the clash, which started when troops responded to “a report of armed men in the area.”
The AFP also claimed to have recovered one carbine, two homemade shotguns, and one locally made 9mm machine pistol following the one-hour clash.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Batallion commander, said his men were reinforcing the 27th IB. He acknowledged that his men entered Datal Bonglangon, allegedly to treat one wounded rebel, said to be an 18-year-old relative of Dayan.
Clergy, religious and human rights groups in the province, however, said Dayan was a respected community leader, known for his legal struggle to reclaim Lumad land from a big business firm.
Sister Susan Bolanio, executive director of Oblates of Notre Dame-run Hesed Foundation Inc., said there had been an encounter but at a distance from the village.
Bolanio, who just completed a fact-finding mission, said an eight-year-old child was among those injured in the shooting.
Karapatan has also sent a fact-finding mission to determine claims by residents that the shooting was reprisal for the military deaths suffered in the earlier encounter.
The military claims that Lumad recruits comprise 70% of the estimated the NPA force in Mindanao.
“We know there are NPAs. Sometimes, they pass our area. But they do not stay there,” said Wali.
Dayan’s village is on the slopes of a mountain range that sprawls across the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
Ambag said the T’boli had earlier allowed David M Consunji, Inc (DMCI) to use their land. But that contract had expired in 2014, said Samuel Dalimbang, secretary general of the Kahugpongan sa mga Lumad sa Halayong Habagtang Mindanao (KALUHAMIN).
Dalimbang said the community was split, with some preferring to work as laborer plantations or security guards. Dayan and his Tamasco members battled to take back the land, a fight that goes back nearly a decade.
The National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) had called a meeting for community approval, a requirement for any enterprise that intends to use recognized ancestral domain.
“The community never agreed.,” Ambag told ABS-CBNNews.
‘Give us back our land’
Dayan’s community lodged a demand with the NCIP, for the return of their 300-hectare claim, Dalimbang said. The NCIP ignored them, he added.
In July this year, Dayan and around 40 families decided to retake that land from the Dawang Coffee Plantation.
They chopped down coffee trees and farmed the land, Ambag said.
“This was our land. We wanted it back. Why were they refusing to return the land? And why was the NCIP not doing anything” Ambag told ABS-CBN News.
“We want justice for Datu Dayan and all the killed,” said Ambag. “And we want our land back.”
Dalimbang said Dayan was also being pressured to agree to a coal mining application by San Miguel Energy Corp.
“We don’t know if that was the aim of the barangay captain or if he came on behalf of DMCI,” the Lumad leader said. “But the community was also protesting the NCIP’s manipulation to allow coal mining.”