Dismissal of Cases Against Lumad Leader and Teachers Amidst Military Allegations Highlights Ongoing Militarization in IP Communities

Dismissal of Cases Against Lumad Leader and Teachers Amidst Military Allegations Highlights Ongoing Militarization in IP Communities

Last June 20, 2024, the Regional Trial Court Branch 2 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte dismissed the cases of human trafficking against Lumad leader Talaingod Datu Benito Bay-ao, and the murdered Lumad school teachers Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo II.

It can be noted that in May 2021, Bay-ao, Booc, and Ngujo were accused of recruiting students from Lumad schools to join the New People’s Army. This came after they escorted to Cebu City the displaced Lumad students and established a Bakwit school. However, due to insufficient evidence, the case was dismissed by said court.

Bay-ao was immediately released from detention at the Davao del Norte Provincial Center. Meanwhile, Booc and Ngujo, along with three civilians, were massacred by the military on February 24, 2022, in Davao de Oro.

According to Panday Sining, the government did not provide educational opportunities for the Lumad, which is why Booc and Ngujo chose to volunteer as teachers. The group believes that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should be held accountable for the ongoing militarization of rural communities.

Just last June 9, 2024, Kuni Cuba, a sixteen-year-old Lumad student, was killed after being shot by the 7th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Kiluding, Barangay Kiadsam, Sultan Kudarat.

According to Cuba’s companion and a witness to the incident, the victim was walking home with his sibling and two other companions when they were intercepted by members of the 7th IB and were shot without warning. Some of Cuba’s companions managed to run and escape, but he was unable to flee and was fatally shot.

The military promptly alleged he was a New People’s Army (NPA) member, a claim vehemently denied by his family, who emphasized his status as a Grade 9 scholar under the Indigenous Peoples scholarship program of OMI Indigenous People’s Ministry in Senator Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat, aiming to complete his education and contribute to his community.

The Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino (KATRIBU) condemned the brutal killing of the youth. The group asserts that this incident underscores the military’s failure to serve indigenous peoples, instead prioritizing state interests that are oppressive and divisive.

To Panday Sining, the NTF-ELCAC, which is notorious for spreading false accusations that lead to multiple forms of human rights violations, should be abolished. Meanwhile, KATRIBU calls on the state forces to stop the militarization in IP communities./PT


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