MANILA — Indigenous Peoples (IPs) leaders on Wednesday retold their stories on the ‘’deceptions’’ of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) against the residents of far-flung communities in the Philippines.
In a press briefing in Malacañang following their visit to the United States, eight IP representatives faced the media, namely Bae Christine Banugan of the Mandaya Tribe of Caraga, Davao Oriental; Datu Nestor Apas of the Langilan Manobo Tribe of Davao Del Norte; Datu Ramon Bayaan of the Obo Manobo Tribe of North Cotabato; Datu Awing Apuga of the Ata Manobo Tribe in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte; Bae Magdalena Ilagan of the Mamanwa Manobo Tribe of Agusan Del Sur; Bae Chiary Balinan of the Ata Tribe in Davao City; Datu Jake Lanes of the Mandaya Manobo Tribe in Monkayo, Compostela Valley; and Datu Joel Dahusay of the Matig Talomo Manobo Tribe of Talaingod.
Lanes started by belying allegations that the government is attacking the communities and the schools of the indigenous people, noting the government has no reason to do so.
‘’Ano ang motibo ng gobyerno para atakihin kami, samantalang nagre-recognize na siya ng aming mga karapatan; samantalang iyong Communist Party of the Philippines kino-convert nila ang teritoryo namin into guerilla bases (What is the motive of the government to attack us when it already recognizes our rights. Meanwhile the CPP, they convert our territories into guerilla bases),’’ he said.
Lanes further acknowledged the Philippine government’s efforts in mainstreaming the concerns of the IPs with the existing Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
‘’Kami po, kinikilala ng gobyerno na indigenous people, so ang gobyerno ang rumirespeto sa amin. Sila, ang tawag nila sa amin national minority pa rin. Wala na po ito, matagal na itong pinaglalaban ng mga kaapu-apuhan namin, iyong pagtawag sa amin na national minority na kailangan kaming i-integrate at i-mainstream (The government recognizes us as the indigenous people, so it goes to show the government respects us. Them, they still call us the national minority. This is outdated, we’ve already fought to be integrated and mainstreamed,’’ he stressed.
Lanes vowed to further his cause against the CPP-NPA, saying he will continue campaigning for the freedom of their communities in the province under the clutch of the communist rebels.
Meanwhile, he said their calls to shut down the Salugpungan schools in Mindanao would benefit the children who will be affected.
‘’Ang totoo po niyan, mayroong mga paaralan ng DepEd (Department of Education) na malapit lang po sa mga Salugpungan schools (The truth here is that there are schools accredited by the DepEd nearby the Salugpungan schools),’’ he said.
‘’Mayroon ding malayo, iyon na lang po ang pagtutuunan natin kung paano matulungan ‘no. Bakit? Mas mabuti na po na itong problema na 1,900 ay i-address natin through DepEd school system kaysa po mag-produce tayo ng 1,900 na child warriors (There are those that are far away too and I think this should be the ones that we should focus on addressing. Why? It’s better that it’s the DepEd addressing the 1,900 rather than us producing 1,900 child warriors),’’ he added.
Datu Joel Dahusay, a former lecturer at the Salugpungan school in Talaingod, also shared that his community long sought for a proper education center in their area.
However, every time they attempt to request the municipality to erect a school at their community, the CPP-NPA is quick to object.
‘’Pero hindi ko napigilan iyong sarili ko na nagpunta ako doon sa barangay namin sa Talaingod at sa munisipyo upang ipaalam sa kanila na gusto ko talaga ng paaralan galing sa gobyerno (But I can’t help myself from seeking the municipality for a school accredited by the government),’’ he narrated.
‘’Noong nalaman nila, dinakip nila ako dahil ayaw na raw nila na mapasukan ng development galing sa gobyerno iyong aming lugar kasi napapaloob na iyon sa kanilang teritoryo kung saan kumikilos at gumagalaw iyong CPP-NPA-NDF (When they learned about that, they captured me arguing they do not want any development from the government touching our place because it’s their territory already),’’ he added.
On July 18, the DepEd ordered the suspension of the operation of 55 Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon tribal schools serving the indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
According to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, affected students will be accommodated at the nearest DepEd schools like what happened to the displaced learners in Marawi City.
CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.