CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Police launched a manhunt against a man and his sons tagged as the primary suspects in the brutal killing of five people, including a child, in attacks that left a tribal community in Bukidnon horrified on Sunday, November 27.
Authorities said on Tuesday, November 29, that the bloody attacks have been blamed on a pangayaw (tribal conflict) that started with a dispute involving Talaandig tribal families on who had the right over a farm within an ancestral domain in the town of Lantapan, Bukidnon.
Local officials said town residents worried that the pangayaw would worsen and that hostilities would escalate in the Talaandig community in Lantapan.
Bukidnon police chief Colonel Reynante Reyes ordered a province-wide hunt for three of at least six suspects identified by Lantapan authorities as Julie Saway and his sons Dindo and Elfredie.
Reyes said there were at least three more suspects still unidentified as of this posting.
Police said the armed group shot dead couple Rocky Cruz and his daughter-in-law Rachel, Winlove Sinto, and a child, and then used a machete to hack to death the oldest victim, 54-year-old Daniel Lugnasan, during the surprise attacks in Sitio Kiabacat, Barangay Songco in Lantapan town. (Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that Rocky and Rachel Cruz were a couple. The two were in-laws.)
A sixth victim, Mael Lugnasan, survived a gunshot wound in the stomach and was recuperating in a hospital.
Investigators said the murders were the culmination of a two-year land dispute between the group of the Cruzes and the Saway family which the Talaandig tribal council of elders failed to settle through a ritual called tampuda.
The Talaandigs are known to use the tribal ritual to thresh out differences and prevent a bloody pangayaw among warring factions of their tribal communities. The tampuda is concluded with the cutting of a wicker which symbolizes closure or settlement.
Police said the armed group first barged into the house of lone survivor Mael Lugnasan and shot him and four of the victims.
The attackers then proceeded to the house of Daniel Lugnasan nearby, and killed him with a machete, police said.
The tribal village and the contested farm were within a protected Talaandig ancestral territory recognized under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.
The law gave the tribal community rights to develop, control, use lands and natural resources, and regulate the entry of migrants into the ancestral domain.
Aduna Lleses Saway, whose father Migketay is a tribal chieftain and custodian of the Talaandig ancestral territory, said there could be more factors that led to the killings other than the land dispute.
She said the Cruzes and the Saways had stopped attending the tribal council’s monthly meetings.
Aduna said the tribal council was leaving matters to the police given that the conflict already resulted in murders, and the primary suspects are their relatives.
The tribal council, she said, was trying to prevent more hostilities and reprisals.
“We have secured innocent relatives of all the parties. After the suspects are arrested, the tribal council would take steps to appease everyone and help the rest of the feuding families settle their conflict,” Aduna said. – Rappler.com