On 30 December 2020, nine community leaders belonging to the indigenous Tumandok of Panay island were killed in their homes in a pre-dawn attack by combined armed troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police. Among those killed were TUMANDUK leaders Eliseo Gayas Jr. and Roy Giganto.
According to family and neighbors, Gayas Jr. was shot after being ordered to go out of his house, while Giganto was shot dead while sleeping in the presence of his family. All victims were unarmed and shot in cold blood.
Later that day, 16 Tumandok leaders and community residents were arrested in simultaneous attacks in other villages in the island. They have been falsely charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.
Following the atrocities, 500 residents evacuated from their communities, seeking shelter in evacuation centers in Tapaz and Calinog. Meanwhile, Duterte armed troops have set up checkpoints in Capiz province. Mayor Roberto Palomar of Tapaz banned journalists and non-residents from entering the town.
The terrorist operations in Calinog, Iloilo and Tapaz, Capiz were conducted by combined elements of the AFP 12th Infantry Battalion and PNP Region 6. They claim that the nine “were killed in a firefight”. Col. Orlando Edralin, Deputy Commander of the AFP 301st Infantry Brigade, claimed that those killed and arrested were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army.
Police held search warrants issued by two judges from Manila, more than 600 km. away. Both judges issued a total of 28 search warrants.
Condemning the atrocities and breakdown of the rule of law, the Movement Against Tyranny on 31 December said, “search warrants issued by courts turned into death warrants for red-tagged rural folk, leaders of the Tumandok tribe fighting against discrimination, landgrabbing and development aggression.”
The Tumandoks have been resisting the construction of the Jalaur Megadam and the Panay River Basin Integrated Development Project. Community leaders refused to sign the “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” resolution for the projects’ implementation in their ancestral lands. At least 17,000 Tumandoks are to be displaced by the Jalaur Megadam project, which is expected to cause flooding and other problems to at least 1.2 million residents along the Jalaur River Basin.
The Panay River Basin project, meanwhile, will affect at least 19 villages. Its catchment area is projected to flood at least 21,100 hectares of lands, affecting Tumandok ancestral lands.
The Communist Party of the Philippines called on the New People's Army to heed the clamor of the Tumandok people for justice. “The brutal offensives are aimed at breaking the Tumandoks’ unity against the Jalaur Mega Dam Project which will inundate their ancestral lands,” the CPP said.