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Children eat rice for breakfast shortly before their families are driven away from the De Lara Park by capitol workers. The families from Sitio Minkamansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong town, Misamis Oriental, have camped out at the capitol park for over a year afted their evacuated from their village due to threats of military and New People’s Army clashes. (photo by Jigger J. Jerusalem)

Evacuees refused to go because of broken promises

By JIGGER JERUSALEM
Correspondent .

UNFULFILLED promises were what made the displaced villagers from Sitio Minkamansi, Barangay Banglay, Misamis Oriental, decide to resist when the capitol attempted to transfer them to a new location on Tuesday.

The evacuees have been living in tents at the provincial capitol compound on Velez St. since June 3, 2018 when fighting between government troops and Maoist insurgents erupted in their community.

But after living for more than year at the park, the capitol dismantled their temporary dwellings, and an attempt was made to bring them back to Lagonglong where they were supposed to be resettled and given livelihood assistance.

Instead of going back home, the evacuees chose to run to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) that provided them shelter in Barangay Macasandig.

Junreboy Hilogon, one of the evacuees, said they stood firm on their resolve not to go back to Lagonglong for fear that they would, once again, be disappointed.

Hilogon said they are wary of any offers made by the local government, although they made it clear that they would not go back home as long as there is a military presence there.

Provincial legal officer Cerilio Neil Pacana said the evacuees were offered to be resettled in an area in Banglay where they would be provided with temporary shelters and livelihood assistance.

Hilogon recalled the Lagonglong municipal government did not want them to stay at the town’s gymnasium, and then they were brought to Barangay Lumbo at the height of the armed conflict in Minkamansi last year.

At Lumbo, he said, the local officials did not extend them any form of support despite assurances that their needs would be addressed.

“We will not go back. There were promises made but were not be fulfilled. It will be just like the last time,” Hilogon said.

What the evacuees want, he said, is for Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vincente to meet with them and have the proposal be put in writing.

“We want it formal, not just verbal,” Hilogon said, referring to whatever agreement that they and the provincial and municipal governments can come up with. 

Meanwhile, Pastor Rufiniano Cabada, head of the UCCP facility in Macasandig, said he welcomed the displaced Higaonon families on the approval of Rev. Mario Ebora, the UCCP conference minister for Central Mindanao.

“We took them in and prepared food and sleeping quarters for them,” Cabada said, adding that the evacuees are staying at an entire floor of the church’s building, with toilet and running water.

He said they are asking for donations from members of their local churches for the villagers’ provisions and other needs for the duration of their stay.

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