The Presidential Adviser for Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs) Concerns blamed the infiltration by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) of tribal lands in Mindanao for the rising civilian death toll.
Allen Capuyan told a congressional hearing Wednesday that about 60 to 70 percent of the 1,933 total CPP-NPA force in Mindanao are IPs.
In a PowerPoint presentation of the Office of the President during the hearing, around 1,580 or 39 percent of the total nationwide CPP-NPA strength of 3,996 is composed of IPs in 2017.
From 2015 to 2017, more than 23 tribal leaders were reported to have been killed for going against communist terrorist groups in their areas. IP communities have been converted by the NPA into guerrilla bases, using these areas as safe havens for hideouts and encampments.
Capuyan disclosed that young indigenous people are often recruited as child combatants through the so-called IP schools like the Salugpungan Community Learning Center and ALCADEV Lumad School – are being used as breeding grounds of the NPA.
A former IP student recruit from the Salugpungan school told lawmakers that even the ABAKADA, the Filipino alphabet is taught with imbued meanings perpetuated by the NPA: A stands for armas (arms), BA for bala (bullets); KA for kaaway (enemy) referring to government troops.
Students are also taught how to use firearms in preparation for their eventual recruitment to the NPA, and are being made to sing the subversive version of the national anthem “Lupang Hinirang.”
Mindanao IP Council of Elders (MIPCEL) chair Datu Joel Unad confirmed that the NPA-run schools indoctrinate the young IPs in the communist struggle.
“We cannot deny that schools such as ALCADEV and Salugpungan are breeding grounds being used to build up the CPP-NPA. Their learning outputs are different from regular schools,” Unad said.
Unad said the MIPCEL signed a resolution condemning the CPP-NPA-NDF’s violation of the IP rights within the ancestral domains in Mindanao.
The resolution cited the alleged trafficking and exploitation of 14 minors in Talaingod town by Bayan Muna president and former representative Satur Ocampo and 17 others.
The tribal leaders also condemned the release of Ocampo and his companions while the investigation was ongoing.
The MIPCEL also banned all non-government and even government organizations from tribal lands without first obtaining FPIC from the Council of elders.
Meanwhile, Judge Glenn Aquino has ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to release the 12 minors to their parents after a three-hour hearing Wednesday.
In his three-page order, Judge Aquino said the court considered the children’s welfare in granting the petition for the release of the 12 students of the Salugpungan Community Learning Center (SCLC) from the custody of the DSWD to their respective parents or guardians.
The 12 minors were in the company of former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Act Teachers Rep. France Castro, and 16 others when they were held for questioning by the police authorities in Talaingod on the night of November 28. (PNA)