Since time immemorial the Indigenous People had toiled the lands of Mindanao long before other claimants had arrived. They had peacefully practiced their customs and had lived as one with nature, however all those idyllic existence was long before the interference of outside forces. These forces had seen the limitless potential of their domains, abundant resources in both nature and manpower. These forces has enrouched IP communities like pestilence. The most prominent of these forces is the CPP-NPA-NDF.
The NPAs saw the advantage of encroaching the IP domains as an ideal area to build their mass bases. The simplistic nature of our Lumad brothers were also one of the key characteristics that the NPA used to gain the upper hand. For the NPAs, the obtuse minds of the IPs are ripe for coaxing. They had filled their minds with Communist doctrine and filled their belief with the alleged incompetence and false injustices of the government. For a time, the CPP-NPA-NDF has found a source of manpower that accepts their insinuations with acquiescence, the Lumads will do their bidding with a dose agitation and false promises, with 70 percent of the total recruits of NPAs are from the IP sector. Truly they had become the NPA’s go-to for manpower resource.
For a time, the NPAs had enjoyed no opposition from their favored recruits, it was until the IP leaders and its members started to stood-up to combat the exploitation. However this opposition is not without bloodshed, as the NPAs are known for their remorseless killings all for the service of their inutile principles. Had murdered vocal and fearless IP leaders who stood up for their brethren. They had made a grim example to those who wish to express their disapproval.
The Eastern Mindanao Command is sympathetic to this plight which became its motivation to launch its IP Engagement Framework. This effort is supported by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process. It is this framework’s thrust to alleviate the IPs plight by bringing it to the mainstream attention. This advocacy is not limited to information support, its end goal is to bring the IP concerns closer to local government agencies and units in order to expedite the providence of solutions and delivery of essential services.
A series of Indigenous People Regional Forum was organized by EastMinCom in partnership with OPAPP and in coordination with various LGUs, LGAs, NGOs and like-minded organization. This effort was kick-started through a prelude forum on 29 October 2014 at TESDA Region XI, Davao City and December 5 to 6, 2014 in Butuan City Hall. But before the actual activity, IP leaders were made to form a multi-coalition Technical Working Group (TWG) in order to discuss the implementing guidelines of the AFP-IP Framework and the formulation of the Campaign Plans in engaging the issues and concerns of the IPs in Region XI and CARAGA.
The framework created by this TWG is divided under the following recommendations; Indigenous Political Structure, Economic and Development, Security, Quick Reaction Team and Ancestral Domain. After a unanimous agreement between the members of the TWG, these framework were presented during the actual forum with corresponding representatives from government agencies who will listen to the enumerated concerns and will provide responses to the concerns. Moreover the presented concerns will be recorded by LGA-LGU representatives in order for them to conduct an actual and sustainable response. At the end of every of the two forum, a written memorandum and manifesto was generated that outlines the solutions needed in order to address the pressing IP issues.
The participants are well aware that these outlined resolution would entail a lot of work and a coalition of united organizations will be able to make it possible. The IP has long suffered the alienation of their rights from their very own lands, they had fought their battles against the oppressive NPA, but through the concerted efforts of the combined forces of the government agencies they will never have to face this battle alone.
Indigenous People’s Mandated Representative of Talaingod Datu Lumansad Sibugan stressed that the Indigenous People are not against progress, contrary to what the NPAs and their progressive organization would like the mainstream society would like to believe. “Buot namo matukuran ug kalsada padulong sa among lugar, ug mga eskwelahan para makakat-on kami” (We wished that roads will be built leading to our areas as well as schools in order for us to learn) Datu Sibugan said. Sibugan also stressed that during the Talaingod Evacuation last 2014 due to the alleged intensified military operation, the left-leaning/ progressive organizations did not conduct any form of coordination with the IP chieftain and LGU leaders. “Kung ang tawag ninyo sa mga igsoon namong lumad ato kay bakwit, ang tinuod nga tawag ato kay dinakpan!” (If you refer to our lumad brothers as evacuees, we the lumads, truly refer to them as captives). Datu Sibugan lamented the organizers of the evacuation disrespected the lumad tradition of whisking the IPs from their peaceful domain in to be evacuated to the city of Davao to be paraded by progressive groups to protest rallies, to exaggerate the perceived violence against the IPs.
The exploitation of the IPs for the benefit of furthering the deceitful propaganda of the progressive groups is not an entirely new concept as they have utilized this modus in concert with the NPA immersion to IP domains. It appears that these organizations are not done with this agenda as they are at it again with the recent displacement of Banwaons in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
Today, the IP leadership are coming together to combat the CNN explotiation, they are well aware that the battle will be arduous, but they will somehow rest knowing that Eastern Mindanao Command is also fighting the battle with them.