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Masked men attack protesters with tasers

Authorities accused of standing by and allowing the attack

A tribal woman weeps after masked men attacked protesters in Bukidnon province. (Photo courtesy of RMP) A tribal woman weeps after masked men attacked protesters in Bukidnon province. (Photo courtesy of RMP)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Manila
  • Philippines
  • September 4, 2012
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Eight masked men yesterday attacked a group of protesting indigenous people and their supporters at their camp in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon province. The group says they set up the camp after a series of attacks pushed them from their village.

About 100 people, including 47 lumads - indigenous people - from Dao village, were protesting against the government’s "lack of action," when a group arrived on motorcycles, randomly tasered people in the crowd, destroyed the sound system and took banners and signs, witnesses said.

"The military and the police were in the area but did nothing," the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), an organization of religious, priests and lay people who live and work in tribal communities, said in a private Facebook message.

The displaced lumads, mostly belonging to the Tigwahanon tribe, sought refuge in the city last Thursday, claiming about 20 armed men raided their village, stealing money and gold. This was the latest in a series of attacks since the killing of village leader Jimmy Liguyon in March this year.

The villagers attribute the attacks to the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army Reform, a local armed militia that wants to control the area and may be backed by mining interests.

The RMP says the militia group has repeatedly tried to force villagers to sign a paper that would allow major mining and plantation activities in the 52,000-hectare territory, which is currently controlled by indigenous people.

The recent raid on the village was due to the people's refusal to allow big business interests in the area, said tribal leader Datu Nilo Cabungcol.

Datu Jomorito Guaynon, head of a federation of lumad organizations in the region, said they are dismayed at the government’s "apathetic attitude” to attacks on tribal communities.

"We are so tired of saying that government forces are useless at solving conflicts in the remote areas of Bukidnon," he said.

The villagers intend to stay in the provincial capital until the government looks into the situation.

The RMP today called on human rights groups to form a fact-finding mission on human rights violations in the province.

"Much has been done, all legal venues have been exhausted. The provincial government is insensitive to the pleas of indigenous communities," the group said in their post on Facebook.

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