NPA VICTIMS. Members of the Talaandig tribe took refuge in a temporary shelter in Cabanglasan town, Bukidnon after escaping from the NPA bandits who attacked and killed their tribal chieftain in their hinterland community in Agusan del Sur on October 3, 2015. They walked for at least 10 days before reaching this village in Bukidnon. (8th Infantry Battalion photo)
Immediately after the brutal killing of their revered datu (tribal chieftain) on October 3, 2015, Talaandig tribesmen hastily abandoned their homes in La Paz town, Agusan del Sur, making it a ghost town.
Datu Manlomakad (a.k.a. Lilongan Bucalas), the acting tribal leader, said that he led the adults in gathering the women and children as more or less 200 heavily-armed NPA bandits stormed their community in Katalawan village.
"We were very scared after witnessing the death of Datu Manhadukan Sandigan. We had no other option but to run and save ourselves from the NPA killers.".
Datu Manlomakad led his tribe during their 'great escape' from the NPA bandits who attacked their community on October 3, 2015. (8th Inf Bn photo)
He said that the NPA wanted to terrorise them because of their non-cooperation.
"They brutally killed our tribal chieftain who was unarmed and helpless. They punished him with death for continuously refusing to support the NPA," he said.
Without any belongings, 86 lumads (indigenous people) escaped from their NPA attackers by rushing towards the thick foliage amidst the chaos and confusion. They were traumatised by the gruesome killing of their datu who became the 11th NPA victim from their tribe since 1992.
Avoiding established footpaths, Datu Manlomakad narrated that they walked through the dense jungle without any food provisions. They arrived in Freedom village in Cabanglasan town, Bukidnon on October 13.
"We survived on anything that we found edible along the way. We are happy that we were able to reach the homes of our relatives here in Cabanglasan."
Lt. Col Lennon Babilonia, the Commanding Officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, immediately dispatched a team of soldiers to assist the local government in providing support for the distraught lumads.
He said that Datu Manhadukan is the third NPA victim in a month. In September 2015, two lumads from the Talaandig tribe were killed by NPA bandits while gathering food in a forested area in Valencia, Bukidnon.
"We are saddened by these senseless violence against the lumads who refused to join the New People's Army. We will provide support to the local authorities who are now attending the needs of the evacuees," he said.
Manlomakad said that the NPA bandits started attacking their community about twenty years ago because of their refusal to join the armed group.
Feeling helpless against the heavily armed bandits, Manlomakad is pleading for help from the government. As the new tribal leader, he could be the NPA's next target.
"We are asking the help from our government to protect us from the New People's Army. We only want to live peacefully while preserving our way of life and culture," said Manlomakad.
The AFP has accounted at least 360 lumads who had been killed by the New People's Army since 1988.
The most notable NPA atrocity happened in Digos, Davao del Sur on June 25, 1989 when at least 40 people were massacred by NPA bandits led by Amado Payot a.k.a. Benzar.