DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 03 Dec) — A group of Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) working closely with the military passed a resolution on Monday condemning the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for alleged violation of Lumad rights, “infiltration” of the New People’s Army in their ancestral lands in Mindanao, and alleged child trafficking, kidnapping, and for the exploitation of 14 Lumad minors in Talaingod town in Davao del Norte last week.
Dated December 3, the resolution passed by the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL), also condemned the release of ACT Teachers party-list representative France Castro and Bayan Muna president Satur Ocampo and their companions, and declared as unlawful their entry into the Lumad communities.
The resolution said it convened an “emergency meeting” on December 3 at the SM City Davao to “discuss the arrest” of Castro, Ocampo and 16 others in what has been collectively referred to as the Talaingod 18 “for illegally transporting the 14 IP minors form different provinces of Mindanao.”
Some 20 members of the MIPCEL gathered in the mall and signed the already prepared resolution during the Kapehan Sa Dabaw, a weekly media forum held every Monday.
At the Kapehan, MIPCEL chair Datu Lipatuan Joel Unad claimed the NPA is continuously oppressing the Lumads, taking advantage of their situation, and using the children for their own propaganda.
He said the NPA has not done anything good for them.
“They are bringing the Lumads to Haran (in Davao City). What is now their situation there? They are like prisoners? They are bringing our youth to Manila. They are like prisoners. They take advantage of the situation of the Lumad, of being uneducated. That’s so painful,” he said.
“They take the children of our tribe without consent from their parents. That is an oppression of our tribe,” he said.
Bae Pilar Libayao, mandatory IP representative in Talaingod, claimed the groups associated with the communists bring chaos to their communities.
“We want them to spare us because there is already government that’s helping us. We want the government to be the one to help our children, to get educated,” she said.
Libayao said the Lumads who are staying at the Haran evacuation facility of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines have not returned home.
“If they want to help, they help for the good and not for the bad because we don’t want that,” she said.
She also said the NPA is preventing government projects like roads and housing in their communities, that they could not these projects implemented as the NPAs would ask for so-called “revolutionary tax.”
Call on CBCP, UCCP, CHR
The MIPCEL resolution also urged the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippine and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to investigate the nuns, pastors, and other religious leaders for allegedly helping the communists, and for the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the alleged human rights violations against the Lumads.
The MIPCEL resolution prohibits all non-government and government organization, schools and institutions to enter their communities without free prior and informed consent as provided for in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
It also supports the closure of Salugpongan schools, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and livelihood Development, Inc., Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. and other schools that MIPCEL said were established by groups associated with the CPP and NPA.
The resolution invoked their right to uphold, secure and protect the rights of the IP “against the violence and damage caused by the CPP-NPA-NDF within the ancestral domain based on the IP’s political framework.”
It also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Anti-Money Laundering Council to “engage the international funders and the local NGOs in our communities regarding the funding which 60% allegedly goes to the NPAs and only 40% goes to the project for the ICCs/IPs.”
“Systematic political persecution”
In a statement, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag deplored what he said was “brazen attack” of the Duterte administration against progressive groups and downplayed the accusations of the IP leaders who, he said, are “acting to defend the Lumad and how they pretend to safeguard their ancestral domain.”
“We firmly believe that this recent attack upon our fellow advocates clearly shows a systematic political persecution against those groups and individuals working for the good of the marginalized and less privileged,” he said.
The Talaingod 18 was on a National Solidarity Mission in the Davao del Norte hinterland town last November 29 and claimed to have “rescued” the children from harassment of a paramilitary group Alamara in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod where they were blocked by joint forces of the police and the military’s 56thInfantry Battalion.
Castro, Ocampo and company were detained evening of November 27 for allegedly transporting the minors without parental consent and on Thursday, the Talaingod Municipal Police Station, represented by its police chief, filed a complaint against the group for alleged kidnapping and failure to return minors, human trafficking and child abuse.
The Provincial Prosecutor on November 29 found probable cause in the child abuse complaint, recommended bail for 80,000 each and gave them 10 days to file their counter-affidavits. The group was granted temporary liberty Saturday night after posting bail of 80,000 each or a total of 1.44 million pesos.
Apiag said the charges filed against the group are ludicrous and desperate attempt of the government forces to cover up their “economic agenda” in the mineral-rich Pantaron range, also a source of water for Davao Region, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga.
Meggie Nolasco, executive director of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, maintained that it was them and their students who are the victims of the incident.
She said the Salugpongan schools, which have permits from the Department of Education, were closed by the paramilitary group and the 56thInfantry Battalion.
“What is criminal here is Duterte’s state policy of martial law, killings, and the selling out of resources of ancestral lands in Mindanao,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)