A group of indigenous peoples (IPs) on Thursday met with President Rodrigo Duterte and presented four resolutions, including one seeking legal assistance for the filing of appropriate charges against the communists and their founding leader Jose Maria Sison.
The meeting between the 31 IPs representing at least eight tribes from Mindanao and Duterte took place at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse where the Lumad representatives attended “The Presser” program initiated by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
Datu Joel Unad, a representative of the IP’s council of elders, said their resolution contains 17 violations and atrocities committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) against the Lumad.
According to the resolution, almost 1,000 IP leaders from 1980 up to present have been murdered “because they do not follow what the NPA wanted”.
The IPs also accused the CPP-NPA of “supplanting” their traditional leaders and replacing them with the revolutionary ones, and of occupying their ancestral domains and converting these to guerrilla bases.
They also complained of the NPA rebels’ collection of revolutionary taxes from their farm produce and livestock as well as from logging and mining companies.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Duterte has approved the Lumad’s request for legal assistance during the roundtable discussion.
The IPs have also submitted three other resolutions –requesting Duterte, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez, to grant a special quota in the Philippine Army for IPs in Mindanao; expressing conformity to Proclamation No. 216, declaration of martial law in Mindanao; and expressing appreciation to the President “for his consistent support to IPs’ welfare and development”.
In his testimonial message, Unad asked the President to extend implementation of martial law and include their ancestral domains granted to them by Duterte.
He said the NPA rebels are preventing them from occupying the ancestral domains which remain under control of the communists.
“Ang request lang namin lagyan ng Army yun mga ancestral domain para maibalik ang control at management sa mga tribu. Sayang ang certificate na hindi namin ma-control ang ancestral domain (Our request is to deploy Army so that the control and management of our ancestral domain will be returned to us. The certificate will be nothing if we cannot control the ancestral domain),” Unad said.
Esperon promised to grant the IPs’ request to strengthen the military presence in their areas.
“Palalakasin natin ang presence sa lugar ng mga IPs or Lumad upang magawa natin ang (We will strengthen our presence in the IPs places so that we can implement) programs of government like in health, education, livelihood and basic services,” Esperon said.
On martial law extension, Esperon said it will still have to be studied by the national security officials before making a recommendation to the President.
However, he clarified that martial law extension in Mindanao “should be on the last resort basis”.
The four resolutions were signed by representatives of the Lumad tribes of Subanen, Obu-Manuvu, Bagobo Clata, Mandaya, Higaonon, Manobo Talandig, Blaan and T’boli.
The turnover of resolutions to Duterte was also witnessed by Galvez, Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, Presidential Adviser for Indigenous People’s Concern Allen Capuyan and officials of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and PCOO officials, headed by Secretary Martin Andanar.
Andanar said the Duterte administration will continue to give necessary support to the Lumad people particularly in education, livelihood, health and infrastructures.
“Nagiging target ang ating mga kapatid na Lumad ng mga armadong grupo na kalaban ng ating pamahalaan. At dahil ang pinakamabisang recruitment tool ng mga rebelde ay ang kahirapan. Ito ang tunay na kaaway na patuloy na sinusolusyunan ng administrasyong Duterte sa pamamagitan ng kaniyang mga programa (Our Lumad brothers became the target of our government’s armed group enemies and the best recruitment tool of the rebels is poverty. It is the real enemy of the Duterte administration that we continue to solve through his programs),” Andanar said in his opening remarks. (PNA/Jelly Musico)