ASUNCION, DDN – Over 1,000 members of the Dibabawon tribe and their non-indigenous local supporters gathered at the Barangay Gymnasium of Poblacion, Laak town yesterday to express their full support to the government’s campaign of immediately ending the local communist armed conflict within and beyond their ancestral domains.

The said tribal members, called locally as ‘Bagani’ (tribal warriors), were also joined by their respective tribal leaders and IP mandatory representatives. Meanwhile, representing the government sector were officials from the Municipal Government of Laak, heads of the same town’s 56 barangays, and members of the 60th Infantry Battalion and the Laak Municipal Police.

The activity dubbed as the first “Bagani Volunteers General Assembly” were initiated by the tribal chieftains of the different indigenous peoples’ clans in Laak.

Speaking in behalf of all its members, elected Bagani President, Datu Galope Davao, expressed their tribal organization’s indisputable resolve of putting an end to the five-decade terrorism of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

He then recognized their non-IP members and emphasized the importance of their unequivocal support to this endeavor. “Whether you are a lumad, a Christian, or a Muslim; and whether you are a government official or an ordinary citizen; we are all Filipinos who must fight our common enemy: the communist-terrorist group, CPP-NPA-NDF!”, Davao said in the vernacular.

Municipal IPMR, Datu Gabriel Ente, on the other hand, thanked the local government unit and the military for empowering the indigenous peoples of the town. He was seconded by Laak Deputy Mayor and Municipal Tribal Chieftain, Datu Segundo Ocmay, who said that they intend to continue organizing the rest of their IP brethren to help in the government’s campaign of maintaining peace and order especially within the ancestral domains.

In response, Laak Vice Mayor Mark Anthony “Honey Boy” Libuangan said that they are in full support of the tribe’s endeavor but reminded them to still abide by national laws and local ordinances. Libuangan acknowledged that while the Bagani has been in existence since time immemorial, this was the first time in recent memory that they have all gathered in one place to rally behind a common goal. “This is a very commendable initiative. Rest assured that your local government will be right with you through all your efforts,” Libuangan added in the vernacular.

Supporting this, 60IB Commander, Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento, reiterated the crucial role of locals, whether IP or non-IP, in taking part in a whole-of-nation anti-insurgency campaign. He particularly commended the tribal leaders for “taking action now and thinking about [their] communities’ development and future.”

60IB has been actively engaging indigenous peoples in their Area of Operations since the latter is one of the most vulnerable sectors to CPP-NPA recruitment and exploitation. Recent data on former rebels in Davao and Caraga Regions show that at least 7 out of every 10 NPA surrenderees are IPs.

Several tribal clans have already revolted against their former CPP-NPA overlords in the past; with numerous tribal leaders and their constituent IPs killed in the process.

Meanwhile, with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and the operationalization of local Task Forces ELCAC, numerous indigenous cultural communities have been considered as priority areas for the implementation of government development projects and programs.