Aquino urged to create body to address threats to lumad communities
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines – North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco has called on President Aquino to create a task force that would respond to what she described as the “worsening security problems besetting the indigenous people’s (IP) or lumad.”
Catamco, chair of the House committee on the indigenous peoples, told reporters here that the problems faced by lumad communities – such as harassment by state and non-state actors, killings and displacements – should be addressed with urgency.
“The serious security threats to, and the helplessness of the lumad in their respective communities need urgent action, which only the President can hasten. There is a need for President Aquino to create a task force to look into the plight of the lumad in Mindanao, to address their problems and concerns,” she said.
Catamco said the condition of the IPs in Mindanao has reached a point that even the National Commission on Indigenous People’s (NCIP) could not adequately address it on its own authority.
“The need for a special body is a must and the government should act now,” she added.
Earlier, Datu Apolinar Ambag, a Manobo datu here, said IPs have been harassed into supporting armed groups even if they did not subscribe to their causes.
“We should understand that the IPs live in the mountains and whoever ask for help, including the military or the New People’s Army, readily get help because the lumad fear them,” Datu Apolinar Ambag said over Radio dxND here.
Ambag said this would explain why lumad communities have been branded pro-government or communists.
He added that the lumad communities have been giving support to the soldiers or communist rebels so as not to be harassed by either group.
However, instead of attaining peace and security, the lumad communities have found themselves caught in the crossfire, Ambag said.
In many instances, he said the lumad groups were even pitted against each other.
He said since 2010, 22 lumads have been killed in Magpet, North Cotabato alone.
“Until now the families of the victims are still longing for justice,” Ambag said.
Ambag asked the government to investigate thekillings and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“I am afraid that if lumad killings continue and the victims are deprived of justice, these people will take arms and fight just to survive,” Ambag said.
Catamco urged state and non-state armed groups to leave the lumads alone.
She said armed state and non-state actors should vacate lumad communities and avoid meddling in the problems among the IPs.
“We in the tribes have our own way of resolving our internal problems,” she said.
The problems and conflicts among tribes have worsened due to the presence and instigation of armed non-tribal groups and other parties, Catamco said.
“The presence of armed non-state and state actors cause problems to become serious, sometimes, resulting in killings,” she said.
Catamco added other groups claiming to champion the cause of the lumad, such as Karapatan, should also lay off IP communities so that tribal people could live in peace as they had done many years ago. SFM
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