Surigao del Sur’s Indigenous People’s (IP) leaders decried on August 18, 2020, a television documentary aired over GMA-7 last August 14 (Youtube video embedded below this article), saying it allegedly presented a one-sided story that disrespected the rights of the Manobo tribe for free and prior informed consent (FPIC).
In a statement, Datu Rico Maca, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, condemned TV personality Atom Araullo for his alleged “blatant propagandistic documentary” entitled “Ang Iskul kong Bakwit”.
“As a legitimate leader of the IPs here in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao, I strongly condemn Mr. Atom Araullo in the episode ‘Ang Iskul kong Bakwit,” Maca said in Filipino.
Maca said the segment violated their rights under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) and made a mockery of their customary laws.
He also called on the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to take legal action on the documentary’s use of the IP children to mislead their viewpoints.
“Did Mr. Atom Araullo follow the required FPIC process to get approval from the concerned Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) and their parents before proceeding with the interviews and filming of the IP children?” Maca said.
He scored the documentary for “failing to grasp the real situation and the problems” that the IP communities face in Surigao del Sur and other IP areas in Mindanao.
“We, as the legitimate leaders of the IPs in Surigao del Sur, live with our tribe in communities and we are aware of the problems that we face nowadays, the heaviest of which is the exploitation of our youth and the radicalization of some of our tribal members by the Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs),” Maca said.
He added that front organizations are also being used by the NPA rebels to implement the ‘Taktikang Bakwit’ or evacuation tactic every time the military would pursue the NPA rebels in the area.
“The CNTs are also in killing spree here in Surigao del Sur as they already killed a number of our leaders this year, the latest victim was Barangay Kagawad Michael Montenegro Duazo of Barangay Mampi, Lanuza, Surigao del Sur last August 8,” Maca said.
He also lambasted the NPA rebels for conducting extortion activities inside the ancestral lands of the IPs in Surigao del Sur.
Two other IP leaders in the town of Lianga, Surigao del Sur expressed support to the call of Maca.
“We consider the documentary presented by Araullo as prejudiced and misleading as it failed to raise the side of the legitimate IP leaders,” said Jawudon Jumar Bucales, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga told the Philippine News Agency Tuesday.
He pointed out that the documentary did not portray the atrocities of the NPA rebels, including the killings that force the IPs to leave their communities.
“Evacuation has plagued some IP communities in Surigao del Sur and in other parts of Mindanao. These evacuations are caused by the terroristic activities of the CNTs. When the CNTs enter our communities and harass the IPs, they ask the military for help. When encounters happen during the response of the military, the IPs would secure themselves. But it is not the military that forces us to abandon our communities. It’s the CNTs who attack us that make our lives miserable. The military is there to respond to our distress to protect us from further atrocities of the CNTs. Yet, the front organizations of the CNTs would blame the military,” Bucales said.
He stressed that the documentary should have presented their side to inform the public that it is the NPA that actually harass, intimidate, and force the IPs to abandon their communities.
“Unfortunately, the tune of the documentary of Mr. Araullo is not on our side. The show promoted the agenda of the CNTs and propaganda on their beliefs why they are fighting our government,” Bucales said.
He added that some of the IP children featured in the documentary came from Surigao del Sur and were taken by the Save Our School (SOS) from their communities and brought to Manila.
“There was no process followed, especially the FPIC when these IP children were featured in that documentary of Araullo,” Bucales said.
Datu Constancio Duhac, the Manobo tribal chieftain of Lianga also censured the documentary saying that it is the same with the usual propaganda of the front organizations of the NPA.
“The CNTs and their allies use the media as a primary tool to create scenarios to discredit government interventions in IP communities especially the support of military when the CNTs make harassments,” Duhac said.
He added the documentary is a ploy to divert the attention of the media, to discredit the military and the government, and to cover the killings that the NPA rebels perpetrated to the IP leaders and members in Surigao del Sur and in Mindanao.
“We ask the media, the Congress, the Senate, the local and international human rights groups, and the public not to be deceived. All the CNTs want is to stop the operations against them so that they can continue to terrorize the IP communities in our province and the rest of Mindanao,” Duhac said.
The three IP leaders said they are also contemplating to declare Araullo as persona non-grata in the whole tribal community of Surigao del Sur and in the ancestral lands in Mindanao citing that his documentary creates more confusion, conflict, and division among tribes. (Alexander Lopez, PNA)
Embedded below: GMA-7’s I-Witness: ‘Ang Iskul Kong Bakwit,’ dokumentaryo ni Atom Araullo | Full Episode from Youtube.