By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL with reports from RAYMUND VILLANUEVA
BAGUIO CITY — The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and a Lumad rights group called out the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for pitting indigenous peoples (IP) against each other.
In a statement issued on December 20, NCIP commissioners said the indigenous peoples’ customary ways of resolving disputes should be utilized and that armed response should always be the last resort.
The December 19 Philippine Daily Inquirer report “AFP taps lumad soldiers vs NPA (New People’s Army)” prompted the commission to issue the statement.
The Save our Schools (SOS) network for its part said AFP’s move only aims to exploit IPs in the plunder of their ancestral lands.
“These soldiers are to be exploited by the government as additional forces that protect mining and logging companies in IP areas,” SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said.
“The NCIP knows the government have been arming the Lumads, like the Alamara and other paramilitary groups, not for counterinsurgency but for the purpose of securing businesses of big companies,” he said.
Valle added that AFP’s recruitment of IP soldiers is made to suppress Lumad struggles to defend their ancestral lands.
“We fear that more IP communities and schools will become targets, just like the infamous Lianga Massacre in September 1, 2016 and the killing of Obello Bay-ao last September,” Valle said.
“They were all killed by their kin armed and organized by the AFP,” he added.
Protect ancestral domains
The NCIP commissioners said that while there are communities sympathetic to the NPA, there are others that are not.
The commissioners called on IP recruits to protect indigenous communities instead.
“[W]e would like to remind the [conscripted] IP soldiers to use their skills to resist harassment and repel attacks against [their] communities and to secure and maintain peace in the ancestral domains,” the statement read.
“IP soldiers should also remember that the force[s] they will be facing are also ICCs/IPs. They must not forget that there are IP core values which must be sustained,” the statement added.
The NCIP also called on government agencies to “assist in institutionalizing dialogues between/among IPs and indigenous communities as a mechanism to resolve conflicts.”
The statement was signed by five commissioners including the NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo and commissioners Basilio Wandag, Norberto Navarro, Ramcy Astoveza, Roy Dabuit and Era España.
Attacks on Lumad rights
Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ group Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) documented human rights violations against indigenous communities alleged by the AFP as NPA strongholds.
Katribu said 39 IP leaders were killed; 21, 966 were forced to leave their homes; 54 were illegally arrested; 21 were imprisoned; and over 100 were slapped with trumped up charges from July 2016 to December 5, 2017 alone.
Thirty four Lumad schools were closed due to military operations during the same period, Katribu’s report revealed. # nordis.net