MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon— Indigenous Peoples (IP) leaders of Umayamnon and Higaonon tribes of Cabanglasan town in Bukidnon province vowed to restore and strengthen the tribes’ socio-cultural traditions ruined by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) terrorists.
In a meeting with local authorities on November 2, IPMR (Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative) Sammy Diwangan of barangay Cananga-an said they lost the freedom of tilling their lands with the armed NPA’s entry.
“We were deprived of our rights to cultivate our ancestral domain. The rule of gun prevailed as the NPAs always carry out their threats to kill if we disobey. The tribes’ youth has shown disrespect to the ‘Datu (tribal chieftain)’ because it’s the NPA-appointed ‘Kalihim’ of Sanga sa Partido’ who dictates and rules the tribes instead,” Diwangan said.
He also narrated how the NPAs deceived the tribesmen when he was accused as the killer of his kin.
“The NPA killed my nephew, Datu Agsab, and accused me as the killer. They [NPA] setup intrigues and deceits so the tribes’ younger generation will not trust me as their Representative anymore. So, I would be replaced by an NPA-anointed representative,” he added.
One of the tribal leaders also revealed during the meeting that the NPAs continue to spread the theory that under the communist system, the farmers could demand the selling prices of corn and other farm products—not the “compradors” or traders. These brainwashing, he said, made the tribesmen’s life—especially the youths—more difficult because eventually, no “compradors” came due to fears for their safe return.
For his part, town councilor Johnny Dungogan shared how the government has implemented poverty-reduction projects in different barangays of Cabanglasan.
“Now we feel the presence of government here. Last June, our governor gave us sacks of farm inputs. The Department of Agriculture provided farm tractors. Our cooperatives are now earning so much that they provide additional household income. Now is the time to do our share in preserving peace in our communities. We have to stand strong for the future generation, for our forefathers, for our ancestral domain. Surely the government will be here to support us,” Dungogan said.
NPA’s IHL violations
Mindanao Indigenous People’s Council of Elders (MIPCEL) has sought the Philippine Army’s protection citing that NPA terrorists killed over 1,200 of their members and leaders all over Mindanao since 2018.
The Council seeks justice for the NPA’s killing of their respected leaders Datu Omao in Malaybalay City and Datu Agsab in Cabanglasan who were murdered in 2015 and June this year, respectively.
The IP community, thus, calls for rights groups and the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) violation committed by the NPA for killing their chieftains who are non-combatants and had nothing to do with the armed conflict.
Support and respect IPRA Law
“I heard the testimonies of tribal elders that the NPA recruited children from tribal communities without their parents’ consent in complete disregard to tribal culture and traditions. Children were radicalized and were taught to fight the government, and even told to defy—and if necessary kill their parents,” Brig. Gen. Edgardo De Leon, 403rd brigade commander said.
Addressing the tribal leaders, he said “Soldiers respect and support the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) Law; the Indigenous People Structure; your communities; and you the Tribal Leaders. We will continue to reach out even the farthest IP communities in the performance of our constitutional mandate of protecting you as citizens of the republic.” (Ryan D. Layug, CMO Officer, 403rd Inf Bde/PIA Bukidnon)