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Blaans want armed groups in tribal enclaves disarmed

KORONADAL CITY — The Department of the Interior and Local Government is now acting on reports by ethnic Blaans in Tampakan, South Cotabato about the presence of private armed groups in their domains, mostly led by settlers identified with certain local officials.

The National Barangays Operation Office (NBOO) of the DILG’s central office had also assured the Blaans in Tampakan, through their Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative to their Sangguniang Bayan, the tribal chieftain Domingo Collado, of its appropriate action on the issue.

Radio reports here and in nearby cities on Monday stated that the reported presence of private armed groups in Tampakan is "bothersome" for local tribespeople, among them families who had complained of maltreatment by armed men employed by settlers supporting barangay and municipal officials.

Blaan tribal leaders told reporters on Monday that they have also sought the intervention of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on the issue, apprehensive of possible harassment by local private armed groups if they do not support candidates they favor during next year’s local elections.

Reporters received from South Cotabato provincial officials on Monday morning a copy of a letter from the DILG’s central office to Collado, signed by lawyer Kevin Carpeso, dated March 18, 2024, stating that the NBOO shall soon report to the complaining Blaans in Tampakan the result of their initial deliberations on the issue.

Senior officials of the Police Regional Office-12 had earlier announced that efforts to document the presence of private armed groups in Tampakan are underway.