Amid the reports on the growing influence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) among youth in Agusan del Norte, top leaders of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the province vowed to support government measures against the communist rebel group’s recruitment in campuses.
Board Member Eddie Sulhayan Ampiyawan said he has secured the commitment of key IP leaders from different municipalities to help local and Army officials counter the NPA’s recruitment of children and students.
“This must be stopped. We will implement measures to support the current initiatives of the Army and the provincial leadership to protect our children from NPA recruitment,” said Ampiyawan, the province’s Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR), in an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday.
In a recent meeting with the province’s IP leaders, Ampiyawan said the tribal chiefs were shocked upon learning that a number of students from various schools in Agusan del Norte displayed a positive view of the NPA.
Last week, the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion said based on the information drives against NPA recruitment in various schools in the province, at least 10 percent of students have indicated positive views for the communist rebels.
Lt. Col. Francisco L. Molina Jr., 23IB commander, described the findings as “chilling” that he said must alarm government agencies, especially the Department of Education (DepEd).
Ampiyawan said Army officials and top IP leaders and parts of Misamis Oriental met last Sunday to discuss the matter.
What is worrying, he said, was that some of the students influenced by the NPA are located in IP communities.
Ampiyawan also lauded the efforts of Agusan del Norte 2nd District Rep. Ma. Angelica Amante-Matba, who visited several schools in the hinterlands of Las Nieves and Buenavista towns last Saturday to consult teachers and parents.
Meanwhile, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Caraga (NCIP-13) director Ferdausi Cerna underscored the need for more collaboration among government agencies to provide more support for DepEd and its teachers–especially those assigned in far-flung areas.
Cerna also advised DepEd to include the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) in the school curriculum of IP students.
“By teaching IPRA, IP students will realize that NPA ideology and the traditions and culture of the IPs are dissimilar in nature and identity. While the IPs believe in God, the NPA [rebels] are godless individuals who adhere to their materialistic creeds,” he said.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (Alexander Lopez, PNA)