AFP turns table on Reds: They’re militarizing Lumads
Often accused of militarizing Lumad communities in Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines this time claimed communist rebels were doing the militarization.
In a statement, AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said on Saturday that there was no truth to the allegations of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate that the military establishment was behind the militarization of indigenous communities in Mindanao and the supposed attacks on camps for indigenous people (IP).
“These allegations by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate follow the same rhetoric they had in 2015 and cover up the exploitation of the lumad by left-leaning groups,” Arevalo said.
The AFP, he said, had uncovered “Taktikang Bakwit,” supposedly a campaign by left-leaning groups and the New People’s Army (NPA) to infiltrate and cause disorder in IP communities that could trigger evacuation among lumads.
Arevalo claimed that left-leaning organizations “distort the facts and circumstances in which lumads are forced to evacuate their homes, blaming instead the government’s legitimate peace and security operations.”
“The AFP’s presence in IP communities has always been in response to the presence of armed NPAs as reported by lumad leaders,” he said. “It is the NPA who [has] militarized these areas by setting up camps and by using lumad schools for indoctrinating, agitating and recruiting new cadres.”
The AFP public affairs chief cited a unified declaration among tribal leaders in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, which “condemns the abuses and exploitation done by left-leaning organizations in the UCCP (United Church of Christ in the Philippines) Haran incident where the lumads lived in horrid conditions in 2015.”
That year hundreds of lumads sought refuge at the UCCP Haran compound in Davao City claiming they were being harassed and subjected to killings and abuse in their communities.
In their affidavit, the lumads later claimed they suffered abuses at the UCCP Haran compound.
“Testimonies from former NPA recruits, test papers from lumad schools run by left-leaning organizations and photos of operations against NPAs also debunk the aforesaid claims of Representative Zarate,” Arevalo said.
He condemned “any action that use the lumads for propaganda” against the government.
“This UCCP Haran incident in 2015 is unacceptable as these actions endanger the lives of lumads, particularly their women and children, and disrupt their way of life,” he said.
“Rest assured that the AFP will not stop proactively seeking solutions through continuous dialogues with local leaders, government agencies and nongovernment organizations to ensure that the rights of the lumads are protected from exploitation and violence perpetrated by the NPA and its front organizations,” Arevalo added.
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