ASUNCION, DDN- The whole of Kapalong’s local government and the Provincial Government of Davao del Norte assembled and hurdled a three-hour ride along the rugged slopes of Pantaron Range just to reach Sitio Natampod of Kapalong, Davao del Norte- home to more than 900 Ata Manobos.
The Outreach Program named, “Serbisyo sa Gobyerno Gidala sa Baryo,” which was held in Sitio Natampod, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte last November 10, was participated by more than 20 local government agencies led by Kapalong Municipal Mayor, Hon. Maria Theresa Timbol.
The said activity, co-facilitated by the 60th Infantry “MEDIATOR” Battalion (60IB), is still in line with the government’s effort to bring the “whole-of-nation” closer to the people. Though faced with issues on political boundaries, the local government of Kapalong with the guidance of the tribal leaders of Barangay Gupitan and Davao del Norte’s Provincial Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative (IPMR), came to recognize the Ata Manobo of the said community as one of their own.
Through the tribe’s consent, expressed through an acceptance and blessing ritual facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) through Davao del Norte’s Provincial IPMR and the tribal leaders, the Municipality of Kapalong in partnership with the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police was able to render services to the Ata Manobos of Pantaron Range. Some of these services include: (1) donation of assorted domestic items, assorted fruit tree seedlings and forest tree seedlings by the Davao del Norte Provincial LGU and Kapalong LGU; (2) donation of food packs, hygiene kits; and, (3) free medicines and check-up, and free haircut by the Kapalong MSWD and Rural Health Unit.
During a short dialogue with Mayor Timbol, Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento of 60IB, and the tribal leaders of Brgy. Gupitan, the people of Natampod raised issues on peace and order, livelihood, and education. At first, the Ata Manobos of Sitio Natampod were still hesitant to open up because the horrors brought about by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) is still inculcated in their minds. It was when Lt. Col. Sarmiento uncovered the truth of the CPP-NPA-NDF’s false propaganda that they came to realize who the real enemy is.
According to Lt. Col Sarmiento, the CPP-NPA-NDF was able to conduct all sorts of extortion and threat in their community because the people themselves allow them so. Further, Sarmiento added that the CPP-NPA-NDF survives and are able to continue with their organizational works because the people provide them with all the support they need like food and access to information.
In line with this, he concluded and encouraged the tribal leaders that it is about time to establish a firm Indigenous Political Structure to include the formation of the IP Bagani as part of this structure.
With the support of the tribal leaders from Gupitan, the purok leaders and tribal leaders agreed to work out this structure and finally end their support to the communist terrorist group.
“This day marks the start of peace and development in your community. Though we still have a lot of work to do and processes to undergo, with your cooperation, we will soon see the results,” Mayor Timbol added.
Preventing Enemy Recovery
According to Barangay Gupitan’s tribal chieftain, like Sitio Tapayanon, Sitio Natampod is still a part of their ancestral domain. Aside from that, the people of Natampod also recognize themselves as residents of Gupitan since according to their culture, the river which serves as their source of water flows towards Kapalong. This is why the tribal chieftain of Gupitan deems himself responsible for addressing the issues in the said Sitio especially the issues that concern peace and security.
This is high time since Pantaron Range was once where the communist terrorist group conducts their ideological, political, and organizational works and is currently vulnerable to the said group’s recovery efforts.
With the help of the Municipal Mayor of Kapalong, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and other government agencies, Sitio Natampod will soon become a center for peace and development.