Dumagats to anti-Apeco priest: ‘leave us alone’

By Jason de Asis


CASIGURAN, Aurora, January 27, 2011–Dumagat chieftains who are supportive of the Aurora Special Economic Zone (APECO) have roundly criticized the parish priest of the Bianoan Parish here for allegedly taking the cudgels for anti-Apeco groups and agitating the local folk to oppose the ecozone project.


Katol Joel Guerra, chieftain of the Dumagat Dumagipo Resettlement here said Fr. Joefran Talaban should confine himself to performing purely Church-related and Spiritual functions instead of leading the opposition to the ecozone.


“Simbahan lang dapat siya. Wala siyang dapat gawin kundi magkasal, magbinyag at magturo. Hindi turuan ang mga katutubo na mag-rally (He should confine himself to the Church. He should officiate weddings, baptismal and preach. Not to teach the natives to rally),” he said.


He said Talaban has been “poisoning” the minds of the people and creating divisiveness among the Dumagats.


Guerra said Talaban’s group promised to provide education to Dumagat children but without diplomas and class cards. He said he did not enroll his kids in the school built by the Indigenous People’s Apostolate, believing it would not do them any good.


Jemma Tabujara, chieftain of the Calabgan Resettlement, said Talaban’s group should help the majority of Dumagats supportive of APECO instead of only a minority.


Conchita Descarga, president of the Samahan ng Katutubong Dumagat sa Aurora and community relations officer for the indigenous peoples in Aurora, described Talaban as a one-sided priest who uses the Church to drive a wedge among Dumagat tribes.


“Ang alam ko sa lingkod ng Diyos walang kinakampihan. Pinipilit niyang paglayuin kaming mga Dumagat (What I know of a servant of God is he has no biases. He tries to divide us Dumagats),” she added.


She added that Talaban has no business trampling on the Dumagats’ rights to decide what is best for their tribe. “Alam namin ang tama o mali. Ako ‘di kakampi sa mali (We know what is right or wrong. I will not side with what is wrong),” she said.


Descarga said 80% of their tribe support the ecozone and that while there are issues involving ancestral domain, their group is incapable of developing these lands for their own benefit, something which APECO is willing to undertake. (Jason de Asis)


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