NCIP slams military plan to tap ‘lumad’ vs rebels
BAGUIO CITY — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has questioned a supposed plan by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to pit indigenous peoples (IPs) against each other in its campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA).
In a statement issued on Dec. 20, NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo and Commissioners Basilio Wandag, Norberto Navarro, Ramcy Astoveza, Roy Dabuit and Era Espana said the customary ways of resolving disputes should be used in areas of conflict and an armed response should always be the last resort.
In a Dec. 19 Inquirer report, the AFP said it would tap “lumad” soldiers against the NPA, after the Duterte administration claimed that communist rebels in southern Philippines were dominated by indigenous peoples.
The NCIP asked other government agencies to “assist in institutionalizing dialogs between and among IPs and their communities as a mechanism to resolve conflicts.”
“While we laud the AFP assistance to IP communities, we would like to remind the IP soldiers to use their skills to resist harassment and repel attacks against the IP communities and to secure and maintain peace in the ancestral domains,” the NCIP said.
The NCIP also urged soldiers from IP communities to protect tribal villages. “IP soldiers … must not forget that there are IP core values which must be sustained,” it said.
The NCIP was formed to enforce IP rights, following the passage of Republic Act No. 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (Ipra). The agency also processes and recognizes ancestral land rights.
From July 2016 to Dec. 5 this year, 39 IP leaders had been killed and 21,966 had been forced to leave their homes due to military operations, according to the militant Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas.
In Mindanao, the military said 330 lumad had completed their military training on Wednesday to become their communities’ “first line of defense” against NPA rebels and other armed groups.
These militiamen came from the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato and Davao Occidental. Most of them are members of the Manobo, Tagakaulo, B’laan, Bagobo and T’boli communities, said Capt. Jerry Lamosao, spokesperson for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley.
Lamosao, in a statement, said the government militiamen were trained on handling weapons and were given lectures on the respect for human rights and rule of law. —KIMBERLIE QUITASOL WITH A REPORT FROM ALLAN NAWAL
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