Zamboanga del Norte

Dipolognons hold torch procession, prayer rally against criminality

Gualberto Laput

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Dipolognons hold torch procession, prayer rally against criminality

PROTEST. Residents in Dipolog City hold a torch rally against criminality on April 15, 2024.

Gualberto Laput/Rappler

Residents in Dipolog lament the unsolved killings that have plagued the city in the past decade

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – Thousands of Subanens, as well as members of women, youth, LGBTQ+, and Catholic laity groups in Dipolog City held a torch procession and prayer rally against unsolved killings, police brutality, and “seemingly unabated criminality,” the latest of which was the murder of Subanen tribe woman Mayumi.

“Our intention is to awaken Dipolognons to stop being passive with our social problems, particularly the unsolved killings,” said retired priest Edgar Agura, the lead organizer of the demonstration on Monday, April 15. “Let’s demand to our leaders to do something.”

Agura lamented the culture of impunity that has plagued the city and the province of Zamboanga del Norte in the past decade, amid unsolved drugs and politics-related extrajudicial killings.

He claimed that no police official or personnel has been punished for committing brutality, and that criminality continues, like the gruesome murder of the young Subanen woman more than a month ago.

In January 2015, Dipolog Bishop Severo Caermare issued a pastoral letter condemning the extrajudicial killings and demanding authorities in the city and the province to give justice to more than 200 victims.

Tension has also gripped the city as rumors spread that Colonel Reynaldo Maclang, former Dipolog police chief widely accused of being behind the atrocities, was seen again in the area.

Datu Roger Gumanas, who spoke to the protesters, said it was Maclang and his policemen who forcibly ejected him out of their ancestral domain in Dipolog’s Barangay Sta. Isabel.

The Subanen-claimed ancestral domain in Sta. Isabel is now the location of national government offices, including the police station.

“Because we are in one community, whether we like it or not, we are involved, and we must stop to be just scared fence-sitters and work together to make Dipolog a humane, better, and peaceful place to live,” said Agura, who is also a volunteer rescuer of Oracis Radio Club.

DEMONSTRATION. Protesters hold banners and lit torches during the rally in Dipolog on April 15, 2024. Photo by Gualberto Laput/Rappler

Participants of the torch procession and prayer rally were estimated to have reached 5,600.  At 6 pm on Monday, they started walking with torches and broomsticks, symbolizing the sweeping of Dipolog’s social ills.

After the protest, Police Colonel Vedasto Dasmarinas strongly denied that criminality has increased in Dipolog.

“The eight focused crimes in Dipolog has in fact reduced by a third from January this year,” he told Rappler on Tuesday. The eight focused crimes include murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, theft, robbery, car theft, and motorcycle theft.

He also said that the mother of Mayumi, the Subanen woman murdered in Dipolog on March 8, is no longer interested in filing a case against the suspect, but he made no mention about the unsolved killings since 2015. –

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