A paramilitary group associated with the 8th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army went on a shooting rampage during a wedding celebration in in Sitio Tibugawan, Brgy. Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon, killing a pregnant woman and wounding five children.
According to a report by Rural Missionaries of the Philippines- Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR), the incident happened the morning of July 30—while a unilateral ceasefire declared by the government against the New People’s Army was still in effect.
“A wedding had just finished in the community when the rain of bullets started,” said RMP-NMR.
Around 80 Lumad were gathered in the house that was strafed. Killed by a bullet to her chest was a pregnant woman, Makinit Gayoran. Seven–including three teenagers, an 8-year old, and a 7-year old—were brought to the hospital for injuries.
In an interview with Kilab Multimedia, Jeffrey Tagnipis, a teacher of the RMP-NMR Literacy and Numeracy School, said that the shooting lasted for 10 minutes. “I told the people to stay on the ground and take cover,” he said.
Tagnipis related that 29 people from the school, including children, stayed over night at the house for the wedding celebration. At around 8 to 9 a.m., 12 armed men dressed in military camouflage from around 50 meters away started shooting at them.
Gayoran died at his feet, said Tagnipis.
“After the shooting, we all rushed to the river to take cover,” he added. Tagnipis was among those who rushed the victims to the hospital.
The wounded adult victims are Boras Sedom and Kambo Bangonan, both 28, residents of Sitio Tibugawan.
The five wounded minors were students of Lumad schools.
Another witness, Brgy. Kawayan IP Mandatory Representative Arnold Manhura, has pointed to Alde “Butsoy” Salusad and 11 armed men as the perpetrators.
According to RMP-NMR, Manhura met Salusad along the road in the neighbouring sitio. “They brought with them two residents from Sitio Spring and Sitio Tibugawan tied up with a rope, forced to guide the group,” said the report.
The two Lumad who were forcibly tied up are identified as Jason Panganlagan, 23, and Oking Sidom, 20.
Salusad owned up to the killing of Lumad leader Jimmy Liguyon in 2012. His paramilitary group, New Indigenous Peoples Army (NIPAR), is known locally to be run and funded by the 8th IB.
Military officials have failed to turn him over to police authorities, despite pending warrants of arrest.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development recognizes Salusad as a “peace keeper,” as part of civil-military operations under the program Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi CIDSS).
However, RMP-NMR said that Salusad has been actively threatening the community for several months, hunting down Datu Jimboy Mandagit, whom he has branded as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Datu Jimboy was one of the leaders who accompanied the Tigwahanon families that evacuated to Haran in Davao City a year ago after military operations in their communities. He also joined the recent Manilakbayan to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address to express support for the peace talks.
In the Suspension of Military Offensives issued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines a day after Duterte declared the government’s unilateral ceasefire, it was indicated that civil-military operations shall continue.
Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire at 7 p.m. yesterday, an hour before the Communist Party of the Philippines was set to declare its own reciprocal ceasefire.