By NITZ ARANCON
and LITO RULONA
A MEMBER of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) yesterday warned of a case for human rights violation against capitol officials as an offshoot of their actions against over 140 displaced villagers from Lagonglong town at the De Lara Park here on Tuesday.
“Duna gyu’y action nga among himo-on, dili puwede wala,” said lawyer Czarina Musni as she warned of an impending case against Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano and capitol legal officer Cerilio Neil Pacana.
On Tuesday, capitol workers demolished some 30 shanties erected by the evacuees from Sitio Minkamansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, at the park to protect themselves and their children from heavy rains. The displaced Higanonons subsequently ran towards the nearby United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) compound where they sought sanctuary after police-backed capitol workers attempted to force them into a bus.
Musni said the UPLM would not turn a blind eye to the acts done against the evacuees even as she called on UPLM and Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag) lawyers to pool their resources to make Emano and Pacana answer before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
She added that Emano and Pacana may also be charged before the Office of the Ombudsman “kay mga public officials man sila.”
Musni pointed out: “Mga displaced persons ni sila. Obligasyon sa gobyerno nga mahatagan silag poy-anan, bisan temporary lang. Unya ila na hino-ong gi-demolish.”
She said the Higanonon families would have long returned to their homes if only the government pulled out its troops from the outlying village in Lagonglong.
“Dili gyud unta sila gahanan magpoyo dinhi sa syudad kay wala na sila maanad dinhi pero wala man ihatag sa gobyerno ang ilang gipangayo nga i-pull out ang mga sundalo didto sa ilang lugar. Ma-o nang nag-antos sila pagpoyo diha sa kapitolyo,” Musni said.
Misamis Oriental board member Gerardo Sabal III said the demand for the withdrawal of military forces from Minkamansi was something beyond the control of Gov. Emano. He said this was a military call and the decision to withdraw of troops can only come from the military of President Duterte.
“Dili namo sila masabtan. Nalibog kami kanila, imbis ang sundalo ma-oy mohatag protection kanila, ila na hino-ong ipapahawa,” Sabal said.
Sabal said the Emano administration helped the evacuees for over a year, and “wala magkulang paghatag sa tabang si Gov. Emano.”
He said the evacuees left the capitol with no choice after they started building illegal structures at the De Lara Park. It was, he said, a breach of an agreement.
“Wala man sab sila motuman sa sabot. Mao nang na-demolish sila kay illegal structure na man kadtong ilang gihimo,” Sabal said.
Meanwhile, provincial legal officer Pacana questioned Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) priest Rolando Abejo’s participation during Tuesday’s demolition operations at the park.
Fr. Abejo is the spokesman of the Movement Against Tyranny in Northern Mindanao, a group that has been serving as a civil rights watchdog.
On Tuesday, Abejo denounced the capitol’s actions even as he sharply criticized provincial officials for what they did, and mocked their “Kung taga-Misor ka, secure ka” slogan, calling it a mere lip service.
“Sayon-sayonon lang niya og sulti nga wala man gali siya’y hinanawan sa maong panghitabo. Kalit lang siya mitunga dinhi nga wala man gani siya diha sa previous meetings with the displaced families,” Pacana said.
Pacana blamed the tension at the capitol grounds on Abejo and accused the priest of being an instigator.
He said it was Abejo who told the evacuees to step down from a vehicle that was supposed to bring them back to the Lagonglong town hall.
Pacana also denied Abejo’s claim that a tourism project in the Lagonglong village near Lantad, Balingasag town, was the reason for the deployment of troops there.
“Wala man intawon programa for tourism in these areas. There is no single centavo allocated for any tourism project in the area. Ngano mo-ingon man siya nga ang turismo maoy nakaguba?” Pacana asked rhetorically.
But Pacana said the indigenes asked for concrete roads and bridges. “Sila man ang naghangyo,” he said.
Pacana said he recalled that the indigenes asked that no development should be undertaken in a “ritual” area which the capitol has respected because it was a religious reason, “og wala namo hilabti.”