Military sets terms for demilitarization
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Gina Lopez has taken up the cudgels for the lumad or indigenous people who had fled their communities out of fear of military and paramilitary groups, assuring them she would push for the demilitarization of their communities.
The military however put a condition to her pledge.
Lopez visited some 300 lumad encamped at the United Church of Christ of the Philippines compound in Davao City, where they had taken shelter after fleeing their communities in Davao del Norte, Bukidnon, and Compostela Valley last year when military and paramilitary groups came and allegedly killed their leaders.
“I will take care of it,” Lopez told the lumad.
“Let us help give them their land back. This would be good for character formation,” Lopez said in a statement over the weekend.
She said she coordinated with Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID), which had troops deployed to some lumad communities.
‘Rebels must leave’
Lopez said Valencia agreed to withdraw the troops this week but in a phone interview, 10th ID spokesperson Capt. Rhyan Batchar said that what Valencia had agreed to was a pullout on condition other armed groups in the area, namely the communist New People’s Army (NPA), also withdrew their forces.
“We are willing to demilitarize the area any time, provided the other armed groups leave the area. That’s our condition – that the rebels leave the area because they are the cause of the problem in the communities, they are the harassers. As part of our mandate, we have to be there to address the armed threat of the NPA because they are threatening the people,” Batchar said in English and Filipino.
“We want the political structure of the lumad to succeed, with the tribal leaders and local government officials talking to each other. They could come up with a resolution for the army to leave when there are no more armed groups,” Batchar added.
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