At least 500 members of the Indigenous People (IP) Alliance Against Terrorism from various towns in Mindanao on Friday staged a rally to condemn the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army’s (CPP-NPA) exploitation of the IPs.
Members of the group gathered at 9 a.m. at the Makati Fire Station and marched toward the Sultan Kudarat Monument Pathway in Makati, where they held a program.
“Gusto namin ipaalam sa mga taga-Maynila at sa mga tao sa buong Pilipinas ang mga krimen at kasinungalingan ng mgaNPA sa aming lugar. Una sa lahat, hindi totoo na sila ay mga sundalong makamahirap dahil pumapatay sila ng mga mahihirap (We want those in Manila and the people of the Philippines to know about the lies of NPA in our area. First, they are not pro-poor soldiers because they kill poor people),” Datu Ramon Bataan, a tribal leader in North Cotabato, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.
Bataan said CPP-NPA members are responsible for the economic decline in the country as they burn and destroy government projects, such roads and railways, in remote areas in Mindanao.
“Ang gusto nila, manira lang at magnakaw sa pondo ng gobyerno. Sabi nila, kukunin ang mga lupa at ibahagi sa mga magsasaka, hindi totoo iyon dahil ang mga NPA ay walang mga lupa. Kami ang may mga ancestral domains (They just want to destroy and acquire government funds. They say they’ll get the lands and distribute them to the farmers. That’s not true because the NPAs don’t have lands. We are the ones who have ancestral domains),” he added.
In a separate interview, IP youth leader Bae Matumpis said NPAs continue to harass young people in Mindanao up to this day.
Matumpis said one of their members is a former rebel who was raped by a commander after being talked into joining the NPA for a supposed “better future.”
“Babae po siya, 20 years old. Masakit ito para sa aming mga katribo niya, kasi parang inapak-apakan ang karapatan naming mga katutubong babae (She is 20 years old. This is painful to our tribe because they trampled on the rights of indigent women),” she added.
Meanwhile, Bataan said a certain Commander Bobby raped a 14-year-old girl who managed to escape during an encounter between NPAs and government troops.
“Yung mga lalaki naman na pinaaral nila sa San Juan, iyong mga maestro nila doon na mga NPA ay mga bakla na ginahasa din sila, katorse anyos din (The boys who were sent to study in San Juan were raped by their NPA teachers who are homosexuals. They were 14 years old, too),” he added.
Due to lack of food and education, Bataan said young IPs are lured and forced to join the NPA’s Pambansang Demokrasyang Paaralan where elementary up to high school students are taught to dismantle M-16 rifles, march like soldiers and rally against the government.
“May apat na ganyang eskwelahan na itinayo nila at galing sa malalayong lugar ang mga bata. Hindi na pinapayagan umuwi sa mga magulang kapalit ng libreng pagkain, ang tirahan at pag-aaral (There are four schools like that which they built, and the children are from remote areas. They’re not allowed to go home to their parents in exchange for free food, shelter and education),” he said.
Matumpis said the fate of young IPs has started to change under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration as they have received scholarships and free food through government agencies in the past two years.
“Dahil kay President Duterte, nagkaroon po kami ng lakas ng loob dahil siya po ang presidente na binigyan kami ng halaga. Minahal niya kami. Kumabaga, ni-recognize niya kaming mga IP (Because of President Duterte, we were empowered because he values us. He loves us. He recognizes us as IPs),” she said.
Stressing the importance of martial law in hampering NPA activities in their region, Bataan encouraged other Muslims to support Duterte’s programs and projects.
“Martial law ni Duterte medyo pinadami ang military kaya hindi kami inabutan ng mga pagpatay ng mga NPA. Maganda ang martial law para sa lahat. Kahit puntahan mo ngayon ang Mindanao, maraming maganda at malalaking proyekto ang pamahalaan (Due to Duterte’s martial law, military presence resurfaced, and we were spared from NPA killings. Martial law is good for all. Even if you go to Mindanao now, you will see that there are several big development projects of the government),” he said.
Bataan called on businessmen in Makati City to stop funding NPA activities through the so-called revolutionary taxes.
He said their group will be filing cases against the NPAs for violating the rights of the IPs in Mindanao. (Ma. Teresa Montemayor, Philippine News Agency)