A motorcycle rider was killed and his companion was hurt following a roadside bomb blast in South Upi, Maguindanao, early Tuesday morning, January 26.
Authorities suspected that South Upi Mayor Reynalbert Insular, who was supposed to pass through the area that morning, may be the real target of the improvised explosive device (IED) blast.
Local authorities said Alberto delos Santos died on the spot while his companion, Loreto Palma Jr, was brought to the South Upi Municipal Hospital for medical treatment.
Authorities found a second improvised explosive device two meters away from the crime scene in Barangay Romongaob. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) of both the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police disabled the bomb.
Lieutenant Colonel Anhouvic Atilano, spokesperson of the PA 6th Infantry Division, said their initial assessment is that the attack targeted the South Upi mayor, who had survived an ambush attempt on January 3.
“Supposedly, Mayor Insular will go to Barangay Kuya this morning to facilitate an activity with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs (MIPA) to settle land conflicts in the area,” Atilano said.
He added that the groups behind these attacks “use the issue of land conflict among the tri-people (Muslims, Christians, and Indigenous Peoples) to paint a picture that the area is not peaceful.”
Not the first time
The Tuesday morning attack is not the first time South Upi, which hosts Teduray communities, experienced such an incident.
On New Year’s Eve, alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) burned 13 houses in Barangay Itaw displacing 600 families.
On January 23, almost 300 families were forced to evacuate due to harassment of an unidentified armed group in Barangay Pandan.
With the continuing cases of harassment in communities of the non-Moro indigenous peoples in South Upi, Romeo Saliga, a Teduray member of the Bangsamoro parliament, feared that history might repeat itself.
“Baka magkagulo na naman. This time, baka mga IP na ang maglead ng struggle (There might be skirmishes again. This time, the IP might be the one leading the struggle),” Saliga told Rappler.
“I am afraid that if these injustices continue, this will escalate into another conflict,” he added.
Call for the Bangsamoro government
Two years since the Bangsamoro government started leading the region, non-Moro indigenous peoples are still calling for an end to the injustices committed against their people.
Reymon King Tenorio, a Teduray, said that the IP community of South Upi declared that their fusaka inged (ancestral domain) is under attack.
He urged the regional government to “listen to the plight of the indigenous peoples communities,” adding that they are the ones who could articulate their grievances.
“Mas nahihirapan kami ngayon dahil sa kaguluhan. Most of the people are affected and most of us are in evacuation centers. Para sa akin, walang improvement,” pertaining to the handling of IP concerns under BARMM.
(We’re expriencing more difficulties now because of the skirmishes. Most of the people are affected and most of us are in evacuation centers. For me, there’s no improvement.)
He called on the MIPA to perform its mandate to craft and implement policies for its stakeholders.
“It is not enough to provide us with relief goods. We want a long-term and an effective mechanism,” said Tenorio.
Prioritizing the protection of the rights of the non-Moro indigenous peoples is the right thing to do, according to him, because they were at the forefront of the campaign to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law since “it provided us with more than enough guarantees to protect our rights, but it must not stop there because these provisions should be implemented too.”
Civil society leader Froilyn Mendoza of Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization said that although the primary agenda is to diffuse the tension in the communities to protect the welfare of the civilians affected, it is important that a long-term solution be put in place.
“Since we have mechanisms in the peace process, we are calling for them to be more visible so that our people will know that they are safe,” she said, adding that civilians are the most affected by these incidents being the reason why they should be involved in resolving their concerns.
Addressing these concerns, according to MP Saliga, will complete the picture of Bangsamoro’s pursuit to lasting peace in Mindanao.
“By addressing these issues, we are giving life to the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” he said.
Being one of the two IP members of the parliament, Saliga said that he dreams for the Indigenous Peoples Code to be approved soon because “it will address the substantive issues that our communities face.”
For him, approving the legislative measure is one thing, the more important aspect is its implementation on the ground.
“It is a deep-rooted issue for us, and they cannot be addressed in one sitting,” he said adding that “it is no longer an issue of the land, but also the recognition of our tribal political structure, resources, and identity.”
“Our people only want to live in our communities without the fear of being harmed,” said Mendoza. – Rappler.com