2 tribal leaders slain in Misamis Oriental

Cops, military differ on motives

By Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez, Grace Cantal- Albasin
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 04:34pm (Mla time) 07/27/2007

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Two tribal leaders were shot dead in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, by unidentified men Thursday night but military and police officials differed on the possible motive for the killings.


Colonel Eric Benoya, commander of the 8th Infantry Battalion, told Radyo Bombo here Friday that Datu Lito Daao, 45, and Datu Manuel Antaluing, 55, both of Barangay (village) Dansuli in Balingasag, were inside their homes when suspected members of a New People’s Army (NPA) hit squad led by one Ka Reden arrived and killed them.


But Inspector Cipriano Badar Jr., Balingasag police chief, said they were looking at another angle.


Badar said initial information gathered from residents indicated the two tribal chieftains were involved in land conflicts although no other details about these were immediately available.


According to Benoya the two victims had received death threats prior to Thursday’s shooting. He said the NPA had tagged the two tribal chieftains as military informants even though “they were not working with the military.”


Benoya said apart from the two tribal chieftains, the rebels had also warned other tribesmen in the area to stop cooperating with the military.


“These are desperate moves being done by the NPA,” he said.


The killing of the tribal chieftains came a week after tribal leaders from all over Mindanao sought the help of the military in obtaining justice for alleged abuses committed by communist rebels in their communities.


The appeal of at least 58 tribal leaders was contained in a resolution they handed to Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. during a conference in Davao City on July 21.


In the resolution, spearheaded by the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development, the tribal leaders urged Esperon to help them bring the abuses to the attention of the Supreme Court, which recently organized a conference aimed at finding ways to end the current spate of political killings and disappearances of militants.


In a related development, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in North-Central Mindanao has denied the NPA killed five militiamen following a raid on a military detachment in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte last month.


NDF regional spokesman Cesar Renerio said the militiamen were executed by soldiers on suspicion they had connived with the raiders.


Earlier, the military said the militiamen — identified as Joel Bilayong, Albert Tanyo, Humoc Tinabla, Legal Mansinugdan and Junie Bilayong — were abducted by the rebels during the raid and shot afterwards.


“We came to get hold of this information through the relatives and kin of the (militiamen) in Kinamaybay,” Renerio said.


He said the victims’ relatives witnessed the killings.


“The families and relatives of the victims should demand an investigation on this matter,” he said.


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