The ‘protracted war’ of New People’s Army (NPA) is taking a heavy toll on the lives of innocent Indigenous People or the Lumads of some areas in Eastern Mindanao.
Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala, Civil Relations Service (CRS) Chief and concurrent Spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said that they are alarmed on the increasing number of Lumad casualties in the series of encounters of the government troops and the NPA. Those Lumads were recruits of NPAs to join their group and be with them in their endeavor.
“There is no amount of propaganda to cover up the reality that majority of the casualties during encounters with our operating troops are ill-equipped and untrained Lumad combatants. We are not happy with this and we weep for the loss of innocent lives because of this NPA’s senseless war,” Kakilala said.
He said further that it is disturbing to note that the NPA, with their false pretense, exploits the innocence and vulnerability of the Lumads in transforming their peaceful communities into ‘laboratories of protracted war’.
“For almost four-and-a-half decades, the NPA exists as a terrorist organization alongside with its affiliate organizations used by self-centered communist leaders such as Jose Maria Sison, Luis Jalandoni and others who enjoy the luxuries of life abroad,” he said. Sison, who belongs to a clan of landlords, is the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), while Jalandoni, a former priest, is chief of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
On March 29, the NPA will celebrate its 46th founding anniversary and as a prelude, tactical offensives against the government forces and innocent individuals are usually launched. But Kakilala said that the military is always ready to counter, if possible quell their attacks.
NPA’s war against Lumads
Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM), said that the NPA have seen the advantage of using and intruding into the ancestral domains of the Lumads as a perfect place to strengthen their potentials. Thus, resulted to the displacement of the IPs from their land.
“The NPA uses communist propaganda sweet-coated with deceitful promises in corrupting the minds of our Lumad brothers and sister,” Baladad said. As can be seen in the video streamed in the internet, the Lumads are one of the attendees in the NPA literacy program. There, they were taught how to read, write and were introduced to the ABCs of their revolution. There and then, the NPA lured them into believing that their movement is the best and the only way that they can be protected from any harassment.
He then cited the firefight incident in the boundaries of Davao del Sur and Sarangani Province sometime in February 2015, between our soldiers and NPAs that resulted to the death of the (7) NPA fighters who were later on learned members of the IPs. In the said encounter, 6 members of the NPA surrendered who are also Lumads.
The encounter of our military troops in Carmen, Agusan Del Norte sometime in January 2015, Lumad-NPA rebels were sighted in the area and reportedly caused undetermined number of casualties on the sides of the NPA.
It is also reported that some of the tribal warriors and defenders of these IPs, the BAGANI were recruited by the NPA into their rebellious activities and now called the PULANG BAGANI COMMAND. The NPA has maligned the IP customary laws on the use of BAGANI by painting it red or desecrating its real existence and being as defender of their ancestral domain. It is, therefore, a concrete evidence of how horrible their means are to win this war; Lumads are used as shield to advance against the military. In fact, in the data of EASTMINCOM, the estimated 1,985 NPA fighters roaming around their operational jurisdiction, 74 percent of which are Lumad recruits.
Based on the EASTMINCOM 2014 scorecard, a total of 138 NPA fighters were killed, 44 captured and 741 surrendered. The numbers of recovered firearms are 356 units of high caliber and 386 units of low caliber. But they said they did not take pride of those scorecards. They will continue to live, protect and ready to die for the people.
“Who wants war? It only offers loss and damage of life, property and dignity. We, as soldiers exist to protect and save lives of people and this war should not be brought to the domains of our Lumad brothers and sisters,” the general added.
Lumads’ movement of emancipation
Moved by the plight of the IPs, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered Baladad to reinforce efforts in his command to the growing emancipation movement of Lumad communities from the grip of the NPA.
“We have to give our best shot to help and support the emancipation movement of our Lumad brothers and sisters from the influence of the NPA. Let them take the lead and we will provide the necessary life-lines. This is the spirit of our Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or Bayanihan, sooner, the domains of these Lumads will be ready and susceptible to development,” Catapang said.
Further, he gave his full support to the command’s initiative in the concluded Region XI Indigenous Peoples’ Forum 2014 where a memorandum was signed in support of the passing of a law creating a regular Department of Indigenous People that will oversee and will craft policies that will facilitate the realization of the IPs self-determination and the Regional IP Forum in Caraga which created the AFP-IP framework. The framework is designed to understand the issues and concerns of the IPs and will provide ready assistance to them. A multi-sectoral Technical Working Group (TWG) was also created to focus in the discussion of the implementing guidelines of this AFP-IP framework.
Gen. Baladad said that series of meetings and consultations were conducted with all the stakeholders and see hope of development in the IP communities with the active participation of LGUs and other government agencies concerned.
“The IPs has long suffered the alienation from their own lands, they had fought their battles against their oppressors, the NPA; but through the concerted efforts of the concerned government agencies they will never have to face this battle alone,” he added.
Lumads: We are not against progress
Datu Lumansad Sibugan, an IP’s mandated representative of Talaingod said that they are not against progress.
He added that the IP are looking forward for the progress and development to reach their communities without, of course, sacrificing their identity, culture, way of life and environment. He then stressed that they have had enough of the propaganda and teachings of the NPA and other progressive groups on how they should fight for our rights and ancestral domain.
“It’s time to move on from the communist propaganda to reality. We have had enough of the exploitations from the NPA and their allies. We only wish that roads will be built connecting the development to our residences and schools be built for our children and future generation to be educated,” Sibugan appealed.
With the efforts, show of concern and action, truly, the ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES is an instrument of peace, progress and prosperity.
By: Maricar Ponce