203rd IBde, scourge to the Mangyans and Mindoreños
The 203rd IBde is a most horrible scourge to the lives and livelihood of the indigenous Mangyan and people of Mindoro. The brigade has a long list of human rights violation and history of sowing terror since being deployed to the island. It has served as protector of foreign companies and large local compradors who plunder the Mangyan people’s ancestral land and destroy the environment.
Based on Ang Bayan’s special report on human rights violations during the Marcos Jr’s first year, two were extrajudicially killed and nine were victims of arrest, abduction and threats, harassment and intimidation in the island. This includes the case of two indigenous activists Mary Joyce Lizada and Arnulfo Aumentado who were abducted by soldiers on April 26 in Barangay Sta. Teresita, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro.
Nationwide, the island ranks fifth in terms of the number of military abuses. According to the National Democratic Front-Mindoro’s data, at least 55,000 civilians were victims of violent suppression and repression since Marcos came to power.
The brigade’s combat operations are relentless, colluding with MIMAROPA’s Regional Task Force-Elcac, since the time of the Duterte regime. Its operations caused suffering on more than 126,000 residents including 40,348 victims in 15 communities under “community operations.”
The latest victim of the brigade is Pedro Ambad, a Hanunuo-Mangyan, who was abducted at Sitio Kilapnit, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro on July 13. Soldiers of the 4th IB mauled and interrogated him and forced him to pinpoint the location of the “NPA’s arms cache.” He was only released after 12 hours. His ribs broke due to the severity of the beating. A few days later, soldiers entered the house of his brother, Admiraw Ambad, but failed to accost him. Due to continued harassment, five families were forced to flee their community, abandon their livelihood and stop their children’s education.
In addition, 68th IB forces arrested four indigenous Buhid at a checkpoint in Barangay Manoot, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro on May 23. They were forcibly taken to a military camp where they were subjected to interrogation and torture. The following day, they were forced to participate in a combat operation to “pursue NPA members” but instead beat and captured civilians, including another indigenous Buhid.
The 203rd IBde’s attacks on civilians form part of its defense infrastructure projects that destroy the livelihood of Mindoreños. This includes operations for mining armour rocks (a component for cement production) which were allowed on the island. Another project is commercial tree planting on kaingin areas of the indigenous people.
The brigade, in collusion with the local government, is using the Tamaraw Reservation and Expansion Project (TREP) to evict the indigenous peoples from their ancestral land in Rizal, under the guise of protecting the Tamaraws. The tamaraw is a type of buffalo native to the Philippines and is near extinction.
What is the 203rd IBde?
The 203rd IBde was formed in 2001 under the 2nd ID which purportedly specializes in “jungle warfare”. Its primary combat forces are the 68th IB and 76th IB.
The brigade is stationed in Barangay Pag-asa, Bansud, Oriental Mindoro. Its operations cover the two provinces on the island of Mindoro.
The brigade is currently led by Brig. Gen. Randolph Cabangbang who was appointed to the position in April. Cabangbang served as the commander of the Presidential Security Group of the Duterte regime. He was also the chief of the 2nd ID and second in command of Task Force Davao. Cabangbang is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sambisig” Class of 1991.