A delegation led by Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) presidential candidate Leody de Guzman came under gunfire in Mindanao on April 19, while meeting with members of the Manobo-Pulangihon Indigenous tribe on their traditional lands.
De Guzman is a well-known union organiser and chairperson of the socialist labour centre, Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP).
According to media reports, De Guzman, along with senatorial candidates Roy Cabonegro and David D’Angelo were shaken but unhurt after a group of 50 armed men fired a volley of shots at their group. The attack continued for about 10 minutes, as members of the delegation scattered and hid amongst the trees and undergrowth. D’Angelo captured the attack in a Facebook livestream.
The Manobo-Pulangihon are trying to reclaim their ancestral land from rich and powerful land grabbers. The attack was clearly politically motivated.
According to Newsline Philippines, the Indigenous community has been displaced from their ancestral land since 2017, when they were forcefully removed from their village in barangay Kiantig Butong and San Jose in Quezon, Bukidnon. According to Rappler, the tribe's members have been living in the backstreets of Quezon ever since.
Their land is occupied by Cesar Fortich Incorporated, with a Forest Land Graze Management Agreement (FLGMA) that was awarded in 1986 and expired in 2018. An FLGMA is a production sharing agreement between a qualified person or corporation and the Philippine government to develop, manage and utilise grazing lands. Cesar Fortich Inc was renamed Kiantig Development Corporation in 2007, appointing Pablo Lorenzo III as its general manager. Lorenzo is now the town mayor of Quezon, Bukidnon.
De Guzman told Rappler soldiers and police — who were stationed only 100 meters from where they were — witnessed the entire incident.
PLM is contesting the May 9 Philippines' election on a radical anti-capitalist platform, challenging a Marcos-Duterte alliance in the presidential race.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year authoritarian rule has been marked by extra-judicial killings and political violence, under the guise of a “war on drugs”.
The attack drew condemnation from within the country around the region. The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) released a statement calling for an end to political violence in the Philippines. Australia’s Socialist Alliance pledged its solidarity with the PLM in its struggle for a new economic and political vision for the country.