A group of indigenous peoples (IPs) emerged determined before members of the Filipino community in Germany, saying fear no longer hinders them from telling the world about what the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) has been doing to their communities.
“Bawat tao natatakot. Kami po natakot, pero kung matakot lang din kami, hanggang kailan? Anong mangyayari sa mga susunod sa amin (Every person is fearful. We ourselves are afraid. But until when are we going to succumb to fear? What will happen to the next generation)?” Datu Nestor Apas said during their engagement with the Filipino community in Berlin on September 25.
“‘Di na kami matakot ngayon kasi may Presidente na tayo (We’re not afraid anymore because we have our current president),” he added.
Apas said the killings of IP elders have compelled them to push back against the communist movement.
As long as the CPP-NPA continues to harass their community, he said he will continue to campaign for awareness of the problem brought to their land by the group that has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
“Malaking problema sa amin ‘yon. Pag patayin mo ang isang elder, wala na ‘yong mga bata, wala na silang kaalaman. Nangamatay na ‘yong magtuturo (The killing of our elders was a major blow to us. If you kill an elder, no one would teach the youth anymore),” he said.
Apas also hailed the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, which he said has helped strengthen security in the region and protect their lives.
“Malaki pong pasasalamat namin kay Pangulo dahil sa martial law sa Mindanao. Sa 50 years na walang martial law, wala talagang nangyari na ganito. Hindi mai-secure ang buhay namin (We are very thankful to the President for martial law in Mindanao. In the 50 years that there was no martial law, nothing like this happened. Our lives were not secure),” he added.
Bae Lahong Chiary Balinan, meanwhile, appealed for the Filipino community’s support in preserving their identity as IPs as they strive to progress from poverty.
“Sana isang araw, umangat din ang mga tribo sa amin para hindi na kami tawaging taga-bundok, ‘di na kami sasabihang mabaho. Gusto natin ng pantay-pantay na trato sa lugar (I hope that one day, we IPs would progress, so that we would no longer be called mountain people, so that people won’t mock us anymore. We want to be treated as equals),” she said.
She added that they want progress in a way that would preserve ther identity.
“What we want is development in our community and preserve the culture that is there. That’s what we dream for the IPs,” she added.
One of the observers, Nelson Jaralve, said the accounts shared by the visiting IPs were an open secret that even he, who is now based in Berlin, knows.
Jaralve wished the group well in their efforts to raise the issue of the CPP-NPA with the international community.
“Ang aking hope lang para sa inyo lahat, sana iyong pag-iikot ninyo ngayon dito, sana marinig ng lahat at saka ‘yong mga taong tumutulong sa inyo, malaman nila na ang binibigay nila ay ‘di napunta pala sa inyo (My hope is that through your caravan here, everyone would learn about your concerns, and so that people who extend aid to you would know that their assistance does not even reach your group),” he said. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)