Stop exploiting our children, Lumad leaders tell Satur

Concerned members of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities on Saturday confronted Bayan Muna president and former solon Satur Ocampo and his companions at the Talaingod Police Station for allegedly recruiting children to rally against the government.

Bai Pilar Libayao, Municipal Indigenous People Mandatory Representative, told Ocampo and his companions to respect the lumad and to stop exploiting their children.

“We have great respect for you, but do you respect us? You don’t have to bring the children if there’s no war in the mountains. Why would you bring them there?” she said in the vernacular.

Libayao said the National People’s Army (NPA) and some non-government organizations (NGOs) are the ones destroying peace in the mountains.

Lumad tribes, she said, are peace-loving people who work quietly to provide food for their children and do not want to take sides between the activists and the government.

“Disturbance happened because you came here. In the evening, the NGOs are good at talking to children. If they’re unable to evacuate [the children], armed people will go up the mountains to get the children. No soldier will go up the mountains if there are no one from the other group there, that is the truth,” she said.

Libayao said her husband was killed by members of the NPA to silence him from talking about the group’s activities.

“There’s a radio announcement that lumads have human rights, but the soldiers, none, those killed by NPAs, none. There’s no one saying that soldiers are the ones who abuse, because it’s the NPAs who first kill the soldiers),” she said.

Alamara group founder Datu Andigao Agay, who was also at the Talaingod police station, said Ocampo’s group has no right to file a police report against the lumad or the police regarding the incident.

“We appeal to you, release our children and bring your teachers. It is not right that you’ll have us reported…you are the guilty ones, you should be the ones reported because this is our territory,” he said.

A woman from Ocampo’s group explained that they were in the area “to rescue” children and teachers of the Salugpungan Learning Center following the supposed forcible closure of the school. She added they were fired upon at the checkpoint because of the rescue.

Meanwhile, Libayao said their group deserves to be detained because what they did is a form of child exploitation.

“That’s right because you’re getting children in the middle of the night, what is the problem? Why perform a rescue, is there a war?” she said, adding that the Lumad elders are no longer interested with the Salugpungan schools.

“We don’t like your schools anymore, no more teachers from you. Every time you enter [our area], people are killed because of war, you kill our leader, so we don’t like you,” he said. (PNA/Ma. Teresa Montemayor)