Agusan’s Manobo tribe seeks justice; declares CPP-NPA Persona Non-Grata

TALACOGON, Agusan del Sur – The Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Amry (CPP-NPA) suffered yet another setback after an entire tribe of lumad (Indigenous People) declared the communist-terrorist group (CTG) “Persona Non-Grata” in their territory.

Following the lead of the Local Government Unit of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, tribal chieftains and members of the Council of Elders of the Manobo Tribe residing in Certficate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) No. 090, passed a tribal resolution declaring the notorious terror group “undesirable” starting April 28.

Enough is enough

The leaders decried decades of atrocities, crimes and human rights violations perpetrated by CPP-NPA elements against their fellow lumads. They also cited the deception employed by the CTG and its front organizations to recruit members from the tribe and use them as armed combatants against government forces.

“We want these terrorists to pay for their crimes and abuses against us. We have suffered for so long. We can not take it anymore. We needed to do something about them or else they will continue exploiting us for their selfish interests”, a tribesman said.

Ancestral land

Aside from the atrocities, the tribal leaders also slammed the CPP-NPA for being behind the disintegration of their families due to their intense- and forcible, recruitment among the natives. “They have been trying to destroy our culture and our way of life by undermining our leaders. This is our land and we do not want them here”, one of the leaders said.

CADT No. 090 lies in the boundaries of the Municipalities of Loreto, Bunawan and La Paz, and some parts of the Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur. It is considered rich in natural resources because of the vast species of flora and fauna, as well as mineral deposits said to be found in the area. Its thick vegetation and terrain made it a favorite hideout of the CPP-NPA until recently after local tribesmen started resisting and reporting their presence to authorities.

Landmark resolution

The declaration, the first of its kind among IP tribes in the region, was signed during the Peace and Development Forum facilitated by the LGU of Loreto in partnership with the Tribal Chieftains and Council of Elders of CADT 090, 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, and the Philippine National Police.

Hawudon Marcos Gonzales, the Municipal Tribal Chieftain of Loreto who also serves as Agusan del Sur Provincial Tribal Chieftain said the forum’s objective was the “creation and signing of covenant between the government and the tribal leaders declaring unity for peace and development, and the formal declaration of CPP-NPA as persona non grata in their areas.” 40 members of the Manobo Tribe attended the forum and witnessed the resolution signing.

Gonzales said that as lumads, it is their indigenous right and responsibility to protect their human rights at all cost. “We need to make bold steps to fight for our right to self-determination in our own territory. These communists-terrorists are freely roaming around our ancestral domains, committing numerous crimes and human rights violations against our helpless and innocent fellow Lumads. They have wantonly disregarded our customs and traditions and even murdered our own tribesmen. They must be held accountable and liable for the injustices they have committed upon us”, he added.

Taktikang bakwit

Records show that in 2014, hundreds of lumads were displaced from their ancestral lands in Loreto after CPP-NPA legal fronts penetrated IP communities in the guise of teachers and religious workers. Former NPAs and captured documents revealed that schools were being used by CPP-NPA cadres as training grounds for new recruits, as well as sanctuaries for armed members. Using deception, lies and intrigues, they were able to successfully agitate the natives to fight against each other, forcing scores of them to evacuate to the lowlands in what they call as “taktikang bakwit”.

In 2015, the LGU of Loreto successfully implemented peace, security and development initiatives which prompted the weakening of CPP-NPA influence and support in the municipality and its surrounding areas. Mass surrender of NPA members followed while delivery of social services to far-flung areas was enhanced. This, however, resulted to the abduction and brutal killing of then Mayor Dario Otaza, a Manobo Tribal Leader known as Datu Malampuson, and his son in Butuan City by NPA terrorists.

Whole-of-nation

Lt. Col. Romeo Jimenea, 26th IB Commander who was one of the attendees during the forum said: “It is about time we listen to the voices of our brothers and sisters from the IP communities. They have been at the receiving end of CPP-NPA’s abuses and crimes for a long time. They deserve to live normal and peaceful lives”, Jimenea lamented. The battalion commander noted that the declaration was the first time an entire IP tribe declared the terrorist organization as Persona Non-Grata. He said other groups and LGUs have also signified their intention to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Andres Centino, lauded the Manobo Tribe and the LGU of Loreto for its move. He said the declaration was significant in light of the national government’s thrust to finally end the local communist armed insurgency over the next few years through a “whole-of-nation approach”. He encouraged all other IP communities in the region to do the same. “We are one with you in your call for justice against these terrorists. These terrorist groups do not deserve a place in our communities”, Centino said. He also said the lumads deserve to enjoy the dividends of peace and development which the NPAs deprived them of for a long time.

Army records show that from 2015 to date, 94 out of 102 NPA who surrendered to 26th IB belong to different IP tribes in Agusan del Sur. 63 of them came from the Manobo tribe. The former rebels have since received their financial and livelihood assistance through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP). Others opted to join the Philippine Army either as regular soldiers or CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAA).