Gov’t intervention urged in Sultan Kudarat land conflict

SENATOR NINOY AQUINO, Sultan Kudarat — Local government officials called on the National Government to intervene in the worsening land conflict in the area that has already turned violent.

Mayor Rafael Flauta Jr. specifically urged government law enforcement agencies to conduct a deeper probe on the escalation of violence in Sitio Blangas in Barangay Midtungok last May 16, wherein a farmer was killed when armed escorts of Filipino-American land claimant Florence Case-dela Peña allegedly fired upon a group of residents.

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The victim was identified as Robert Rodriguez, 32, a resident of Sitio Blangas, Barangay Midtungok of this municipality.

Sultan Kudarat Vice Governor Donato Ligo, Mayor Flauta, and municipal officials attended the victim’s burial in Sitio Blangas on May 24.

Eulogio Rodriguez, the victim’s father, said they want the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and other concerned agencies to investigate the incident.

Dela Peña, who was allegedly escorted by heavily armed men clad in military fatigues but with no name plates, came to the area along with personnel from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Land Management Services-Region 12 to conduct a perimeter survey on the 374 hectares of land under her claim.

According to witnesses, a group of residents, composed of Ilocano and Ilonggo settlers and members of the area’s Manobo Dulangan tribe, were reportedly starting to gather near the Sitio Blangas Elementary School around for a scheduled consultation-dialogue related to the survey when violence erupted.

Dela Peña’s group immediately fled the area after the incident.

However, the accompanying surveyors from the DENR’s Land Management Services were forced to abandon their commissioned Elf truck and Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment.

The area claimed by dela Peña, who is reportedly a resident of General Santos City, covers at least seven sitios of Barangay Midtungok that are part of the ancestral domain of the Manobo Dulangan tribe as declared by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-Southern Mindanao.

The Kulaman Manobo Dulangan Organization (KMDO) has long been fighting to secure land titles for their ancestral domain through the assistance of the NCIP’s Kulaman Community Service Center and the Tri-People Concern for Peace, Progress and Development of Mindanao Inc. (Tricom).

Tricom Inc. has been assisting IP communities in their struggle to own and develop their ancestral domains in various parts of Mindanao. (SunStarGenSan)

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