MANILA, Philippines — Residents of a lumad community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte have been keeping fearful watch over their village school, which members of the Alamara militia have threatened to burn by Thursday if they do not kill at least one of four persons they accuse of murdering a relative early this week.
Vivien Pepito, a teacher of the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil, told InterAksyon by phone Wednesday that the community of 105 households could not evacuate or even send out word of their plight because roadblocks had been set up on the trials leading out of the hinterland village.
Pepito, a mother to a three-month old infant and a Grade 3 student, said the terror began on Monday when Cawilan Salangani, a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical, was shot dead by reported communist rebels in Barangay Santo Niño, another village she said costs P400 to reach by rental motorcycle.
Later that day, Pepito said word reached their community that Salangani’s father, Anlantao, and cousin Judin, both Alamara members, were threatening to kill a recent Salugpongan graduate, his father and two other Dulyan residents, all members of the school’s Parents-Teachers-Community Association.
The militia, which often joins military counterinsurgency operations, has long been linked to abuses that have driven lumad communities in Davao del Norte to evacuate time and again.
By Tuesday, the Salanganis and two other Alamara members, all heavily armed, arrived in Dulyan and said if they found none of their targets, they would torch the school by Thursday.
Despite their fear, Pepito said the community mobilized to respond to the threat.
Tuesday evening, “more than 20 parents came to the school and stayed with us while others stood watch around the homes of residents who might be in danger,” the teacher said.
But it was a sleepless night as “they threw tree branches at the school and shone their flashlights at us,” she added.
Although her husband tried to continue holding classes for the school’s 127 students on Wednesday, Pepito said he had been instructed by the school administration to stop for the meantime because of the danger.
“The community is united and very brave but we are really afraid that the Alamara might decide to use violence to have their way,” Pepito said, the fear palpable in her trembling voice.