Strained by the attacks in insurgency-torn Philippines, some indigenous peoples (IP) leaders on June 29, 2019 urged the international community to help end communist armed conflict in the country, as they “break their silence” on the atrocities of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines(CPP-NPA-NDFP).
SPEAKING TOUR. Indigenous peoples (IP) leaders check their presentation during a conference before a Filipino community group in Queens, New York City on Saturday (June 29, 2019). The IP leaders are in the United States for a series of speaking engagements about the atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDFP. (Photo by Mac Villarino/PCOO)
“Please help us clear the issues of the Lumad killings and the alleged attacks on our communities and schools because truth is, the one who has the motive of attacking and violating our rights and communities are the groups who want to convert our ancestral domain into their guerilla bases and recruit our youth into child warriors,” Datu Bawan Jacob Lanes, member of Mandaya Tribes from Davao City, said in his speech before members of Filipino community group Patriotic Filipinos.
Lanes said the CPP-NPA-NDFP has committed several human rights violations against members of the indigenous people.
“Their lies and deceptions to force us into their framework (of) self-determination and liberation, in fact, we already made our decision that the expression of our self-determination is self-governance and empowerment under the flag of the Philippine government,” he said.
Lanes, along with other tribal chieftains, travelled from the Philippines to the United States of America to raise their voices about the atrocities and attacks made by communist terrorist organizations by engaging the US government, United Nations, Filipino communities, and other international organizations.
Christine Banugan, whose father and uncle were both murdered by members of the CPP-NPA, shared that she needed to step up not just to give her family the justice they deserve, but to lead her community in attaining peace and development.
“Despite threats to my life, I continue my leadership because if no one will lead them, who will? If this is not the right time to lead, then when?,” she said.
The 28-year-old Banugan now takes the helm in the Mandaya Tribe in Davao Oriental after her father, Likid, who was then tribal chieftain, was killed after consistently upholding the rights of indigenous peoples.
PAIN OF THE PAST. Tribal leader Christine Banugan cries as she recalls the murder of her family by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) during a conference in Queens, New York on Saturday (June 29, 2019). Banugan, who is now leader of the Mandaya Tribe, said she needed to step up not just to give her family the justice they deserve, but to lead her community in attaining peace and development. (Photo by Mac Villarino/PCOO)
Joel Dahusay, an IP teacher and community organizer, lamented how the Salugpungan school has become an institution of deception, radicalization and corruption of IP culture, saying that it “destroyed the traditional way of the IPs especially in Mindanao for 50 years now.”
As a public school graduate, he said he was able to compare the teachings of the Salugpungan and “noticed a big difference.”
“I am wondering why the Salugpungan school did not follow the Department of Education curriculum. It is more on bringing struggle and deception, and brought the students to attend rallies,” he added.
Other IP leaders, meanwhile, disclosed that after they were recruited to join the communist rebellion, they became first-hand witnesses of how oppression and deception strangled tribe members to death.
Datu Ramon Bayaan, who was with the NPA for three years, said other than killing thousands of traditional leaders who oppose their ideology and replacing them with revolutionary chieftains, they systematically deceived the IPs.
“Hinay hinay umabot sa akong huna-huna nga ang among kinabalakhan, ngano nakaabot mi diri? Kining pagpamatay sa tribo? (It slowly came to our minds where we realized, how did we get here? We were killing our tribespeople),” he said.
He added that the CPP-NPA occupied “our sacred place in our ancestral domain and established front guerilla camp.”
Datu Awing Maraan Apuga, on the other hand, said he was trained to become a child warrior by the NPA, eventually becoming a medic of the NPA Platoon in Davao del Norte and a teacher of the Salugpungan school.
Apuga said he was only five years old when his father brought him inside an NPA hideout, and was only 12 when he headed the Salugpungan Youth, tasked to convince young people to enrol in the alternative school.
NPA CHILD WARRIOR. Indigenous Peoples (IP) group leader Datu Awing Maraan Apuga shares how he became a New People’s Army (NPA) child warrior, during a conference in Queens, New York on Saturday (June 29, 2019). Apuga said he eventually became a medic of the NPA Platoon in Davao del Norte and a teacher of the Salugpungan school before returning to the folds of the law. (Photo by Mac Villarino/PCOO)
“Murag sakit sa buot nako karon. Nga ang gintudlo sa akoa dili maayo. Gipangandoy nako nga makaskwela ko. An gintudlo dili maayo (It’s hard to accept right now the things I learned were bad. I prayed to become an educated man, but the teachings were evil),” he said.
The tribal leaders will make their way across the United States — from New York to Chicago, California and Washington DC — to call on the international community to hear their plight back home.
Tribal leaders representing the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders (MIPCEL) earlier cited several human rights violations committed by the CPP-NPA against IPs.
The list, which was called “17 atrocities,” was submitted to the Commission on Human Rights as well as the Philippine National Police, which is currently looking into the alleged violations by collating all affidavits of the tribal leaders and victims.
Among the 17 atrocities was the June 25, 1989 massacre in Barangay Binaton, Digos, Davao del Sur, where 39 churchgoers were massacred by armed men believed to members of the NPA.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (Rom Dulfo, PNA)