Rise in civilian deaths due to NPA presence in IP communities

Presidential Adviser for Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs) Concerns Allen Capuyan said the infiltration by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) of tribal lands in Mindanao was purportedly responsible for the rising civilian death toll.

During a House hearing on the complaints of various IP leaders regarding NPA’s continuing atrocities Wednesday, Capuyan said the communist terrorist group’s exploitation of IPs intensifies the clamor for waging a pangayaw, or tribal war, all over the country’s southern regions.

“Pangayaw” is a tribal justice system that has been defined as a ritual performed by a warrior chief prior to waging a prestige killing.

“The problems of IPs in Mindanao reached to a point that is even beyond their comprehension and imagination that they cannot solve it unless all of them declare pangayaw all over Mindanao. It has reached to a point that almost everyday, may pinapatay na tao (a person is killed),” Capuyan said.

In a PowerPoint presentation of the Office of the President during the hearing, around 1,580 or 39 percent of the total nationwide CPP-NPA manpower of 3,996 was composed of IPs in 2017. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of the 1,933 total CPP-NPA force in Mindanao are IPs.

From 2015 to 2017, more than 23 tribal leaders were reported to have been killed for going against communist terrorist groups in their areas. IP communities have been converted by the NPA into guerrilla bases, using these areas as safe havens for hideouts and encampments.

Capuyan disclosed that young indigenous people are often recruited as child combatants through the so-called IP schools –such as Salugpungan Community Learning Center and ALCADEV Lumad School– which are being used as breeding grounds of the NPA.

A former IP student recruit from the Salugpungan school revealed that the ABAKADA, or the Filipino alphabet, has other imbued meanings perpetuated by the NPA: A for armas (arms), BA for bala (bullets); KA for kaaway (enemy), which referred to the military and government.

Students are also taught how to use firearms as part of their eventual recruitment to the NPA, and are being made to sing the subversive version of the national anthem “Lupang Hinirang.”

Mindanao IP Council of Elders (MIPCEL) chair Datu Joel Unad attested that the NPA-run schools indoctrinated the young IPs into the communist struggle.

“Hindi natin ma-deny na yung mga paaralang ALCADEV, Salugpungan, eto yung mga eskwelehan para mag-build up yung mga CPP-NPA. Iba yung output sa pinag-aralan nila, iba sa pinag-aralan ng sa regular na eskwelahan (We cannot deny that schools such as ALCADEV and Salugpungan are breeding grounds being used to build up the CPP-NPA. Their learning outputs are different from regular schools),” Unad said.

Unad said the MIPCEL signed a resolution condemning the CPP-NPA-NDF’s violation of the IP rights within the ancestral domains in Mindanao.

The resolution cited the alleged trafficking and exploitation of 14 minors in Talaingod town by Bayan Muna president and former representative Satur Ocampo and 17 others.

The tribal leaders also condemned the release of Ocampo and his companions while the investigation was ongoing.

The MIPCEL also banned all non-government and even government organizations from tribal lands without first obtaining FPIC from the Council of elders. (PNA)