By Freddie Lazaro
CANDON CITY, Ilocos Sur – At least 50 Indigenous Peoples (IP) leaders in this province strongly condemned the various atrocities committed by the New People’Army (NPA) during the First IP Forum in the second district of Ilocos Sur last January 15.
Major General Lenard T. Agustin, the commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, commended the IPs leaders in Ilocos Sur for condemning the NPA rebels.
“We are very delighted with the IP Leaders of Ilocos Sur for they are willing to support the campaign of our government; with this, we are expecting that they will now play an active part in maintaining the peace and security in the province,” said Agustin.
Meanwhile, the forum was anchored on the theme “Unity and Solidarity for Peace and Development of Communities” and was facilitated by the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS) cluster of the Ilocos Sur Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) held at Ceferino’s Function Hall, Diversion Road, Candon City.
The condemnation made by the Ilocos Sur IP leaders was their reaction to the killing of Sammy Diwangan, an IP leader in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, who was alleged gunned down by NPA rebels last January 4. It was said that Diwangan’s slay was just one of the hundreds cases where NPAs killed IPs.
Meanwhile, the forum was made possible through the strong collaborative efforts of the Army’s 81st Infantry (SPARTAN) Battalion, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo A. Mariñas Jr., together with the provincial police office of Ilocos Sur, the National Commission of Indigenous People of Ilocos Sur, and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
The forum aimed to strengthen the unity among IPs, as well as to enhance their awareness on the deceptive schemes and atrocities made by the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs), especially the recruitment among the youth and students and the crimes they committed against the IPs in the different parts of the country.
Elpidio A. Quines, the provincial Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Ilocos Sur, encouraged the IP leaders to work with the government on its effort to curb insurgency in their communities.
“I would like to encourage all my fellow IP leaders – from the municipal down to barangay level not to be afraid of fighting for our rights. We must work with the Philippine Army for the progress of our community, because without peace there will be no development,” said Quines.
To show the full commitment of IP leaders for peace and development in the province, a covenant signing was held and led by Quines, Lieutenant Colonel Marinas Jr., and the police officials, the representatives from the towns of Tagudin, Suyo, Sta. Cruz, Banayoyo, Salcedo, Burgos and Lidlidda, and City of Candon, all of Ilocos Sur.
Aside from condemning the NPA rebels on their terroristic acts, the IP leaders also declared them as Persona Non-Grata in their respective communities.