Gov’t forming new body to check ‘lumad’ concerns
T’BOLI, SOUTH COTABATO—President Duterte has ordered the creation of a task force that will look into the concerns of indigenous peoples (IPs), including the recruitment of “lumad” by communist rebels, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.
Dureza said retired Col. Allen Capuyan, a Manobo, had been eyed to head the new IP body that would allow lumad to raise and discuss problems in their communities.
Dureza, who spoke during the opening rites of this town’s 44th founding anniversary on Tuesday, said the President expected the task force to address the roots of insurgency, which he said had disrupted the lives of lumad.
Dureza, citing military accounts, said members of IP communities had been joining the New People’s Army (NPA).
“Don’t just shoot. We need to ask why they are rebelling against [the] government. It can be poverty; they cannot send their children to school,” he said, noting that the new task force would consolidate development priorities.
Dureza said a panel formed last year, the Indigenous People’s Peace Panel headed by lawyer Reuben Lingating, gave lumad representatives a venue to discuss how living conditions of IPs could be improved.
In Cagayan de Oro City, a group of lumad from Bukidnon province filed a complaint in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against government soldiers for harassment after they identified them as either supporters or members of the NPA.
Ronilo Menente, a member of farmers’ group Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus, said soldiers from two Army units went to their village in Maramag town, Bukidnon, and forced them to admit their links to the NPA.
Menente said they were also forced to identify their supposed leaders. “We are worried about our safety,” he said.
But 1st Lt. Teresita Ingente, spokesperson for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division here, dared the lumad group to identify these soldiers so the military could subject them to disciplinary actions.
Ingente said the Armed Forces of the Philippines would not condone any abuse committed by soldiers, urging victims to file a formal complaint. —REPORTS FROM JEOFFREY MAITEM AND JIGGER JERUSALEM
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