Malungon, Sarangani Province, thousands of T’boli and B’laan indigenous people from the uplands of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato were gathered together in the town plaza of said municipality for a “Peace Rally” yesterday, August 30, 2014, which started at 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Bringing their streamers and placards printed with themes and messages that condemning the atrocities being done by the lawless armed group of CPP-NPA.
From nineteen (19) barangays of Lake Sebu, the IPs march-off going to plaza while shouting in their native language, “Hadu kem tao tabag; aknagol to dad NPA!” which means “We denounce the group of NPA; we do not need them!” Most of the IPs were came from barangay Ned, the biggest and farthest barangay of Lake Sebu where NPAs terrorizing them before the immersion of 27th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army to conduct Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in collaboration with Local Government Unit (LGU) and concerned Line Government Agencies (LGAs).
In town plaza where they gathered, the ceremony was held which participated by IP Chieftains, Tribal Leaders and Brgy Chairmen who delivered their messages. It was also attended by peace advocates from different sectors of society, including the Local Government Unit, Philippine Army and Philippine National Police.
Mayor Antonio Fungan of Lake Sebu, said, “We the IPs are peace loving people, what my constituents needs are basic services like health, education and livelihood.”
The IPs need to have farm to market roads so that farmers in the uplands can easily deliver their products. They want to finish the National Secondary Road connecting from poblacion Lake Sebu through Brgy Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato to Maitum, Sarangani Province, and requesting the 27IB to secure the heavy equipment which currently constructing the road.
“We are promoting our town as tourist destination. For now, we are the number 2 tourist destination in the Philippines, and we envisioned being number one someday, said by Mayor Fungan.”
Ltc Shalimar Imperial, Battalion Commander of 27IB assures that in collaboration with PNP, LGU and other stakeholders, peace and order in the area shall be maintained. He said his troops are willing to sacrifice and even offered their lives in the name of service to the people, especially the IPs.
Col Ronald C Villanueva, Brigade Commander of 1002nd Brigade who also invited to give message during the peace rally said the lawless group of NPAs as supported by a progressive front of deceived masses must spare the IPs in their worthless armed struggle.
“The IPs has the right to self-governance and self-determination. It is stated on Republic Act # 8371, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 that they can use their own justice system based on their customary law”, added by Col Villanueva.
In a media interview with Cpt Rey Balibagoso, the spokesperson of 1002nd Brigade he said that in the whole brigade’s area of responsibility, within this year alone, there were already numerous peace rallies and the people condemning the lawless group of CPP-NPA.
Last March 5, 2014, in Digos City, a condemnation rally was held against the use of landmines of the NPAs in area of Bansalan, Davao del Sur where four (4) civilians got injured. The same rally was happened last July 27, 2014 in Brgy Pinalpalan, Malita, Davao del Sur when one (1) innocent civilian, a member of Tagakaulo tribe was brutally killed by NPAs. On August 9, 2014, a peace rally was also held in Makilala, Cotabato where hundreds of people march-off and gathered in front of the Municipal Hall to denounce the NPAs. The same peace rally was also held in poblacion, Arakan, Cotabato last August 21, 2014 where hundreds of people, mostly a Manubo tribe were gathered to call for peace.
“The upland folks denouncing the CPP-NPA and calls the support to the AFP’s campaign on Internal Peace and Security Plan: Bayanihan, so that peace and development shall continue”, added by Cpt Balibagoso.