MANILA, Philippines — A ranking official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development complained Thursday that she and her team have been barred by the local government of Kapalong, Davao del Norte from visiting far-flung communities of the town to deliver their services.
Aside from this, Assistant Secretary Aleli Bawagan said the Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative of the town, Datu Arturo Davao, warned them Wednesday evening that the Bagani militia had threatened to kill one of their party as an “example” if they insisted on going to Barangay Gupitan as scheduled on Thursday.
“Sasampulan daw kami,” Bagawan said.
A similar threat was relayed to the DSWD team Thursday morning by the agency’s own local community facilitator, prompting them to have these recorded with the Kapalong police.
The Bagani has been the subject of several complaints by lumad communities in Davao del Norte who accuse the militia and the military of human rights violations, including the occupation of their villages and schools set up by civil society and religious groups.
Bawagan’s team is supposed to deliver 2,500 food packs to the lumad residents of Gupitan, inform them of the agency’s programs and list down potential beneficiaries.
Interviewed by phone Thursday afternoon, Bawagan said that, as of this posting, “hindi talaga kami pinayagan ng (we are really not allowed by the) LGU and the community” to proceed to Gupitan.
At the same time, she hinted that Kapalong Mayor Theresa Timbol had a major role in thwarting them, saying that since they arrived in Kapalong Wednesday noon, the local executive has refused to meet them.
Timbol “has also told local DSWD personnel that she is against us proceeding and have practically prohibited the staff from going,” Bagawan said.
Instead, the team met with municipal administrator Gaspar Banlinggao and Davao and, later, had a “tension-filled” meeting with different IPMRs of the town’s barangays during which “LGU officials stated their vehement opposition against our proceeding.”
During the initial meeting, Bawagan said Davao claimed members of PASAKA, a lumad organization that has often complained of being targeted by the Bagani, was with the DSWD team, although he could not show any proof of this.
Despite not meeting with the DSWD team, Bagawan said the mayor reportedly met with the local datu who later issued a statement saying they, along with the Bagani, were demanding that all assistance intended for the lumad, whether from the private sector or the national or provincial government, should be coursed through the local government.
She said the military had been willing to escort them but later said they could do so “only if the local government approved or endorsed the activity.”
Bawagan admitted being “very frustrated” since they had had no problems visiting other lumad communities, including those in Bukidnon, and were only complying with President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders to help the indigenous people.