MANILA – Indigenous Peoples (IP) in communist organizations were promised free education when they were recruited.
This, according to Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib, in a virtual forum on Wednesday, saying there is an estimated 1,500 IPs lured by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran-Davao since 2015.
“The IPs that were in Haran did not know the real intention of the groups that took them there. The parents were told that their children will have free education, that they can go to college. They didn’t know they will be sent to rallies,” Jubahib said.
Last February, 19 IP students were reunited with their parents and tribe leaders after they were extricated from their handlers at the University San Carlos in Cebu City.
Over 100 IPs from Talaingod and Kapalong towns were also rescued recently by the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the provincial government.
Jubahib has arranged housing projects, with the help of the National Housing Authority and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in Sitio Dulian and Sitio Tibukag, Barangay Dagohoy in Talaingod town for rescued IPs.
“From around 1,500 IPs that were taken into the Haran compound in 2014 to 2015, we now only have some 150 left. It has been a long process for the rescue operations because we are doing it legally,” Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry “Agila” Division G-7 commander, Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, said in the same forum.
Psychological interventions in the form of counseling follow rescue efforts as the IPs suffer from stress and anxiety and have suicidal tendencies.
Some children have also died due to unsanitary living conditions.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary and NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy said it is vital that Filipinos are aware of the atrocities by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and their allies in Congress, like party-list Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna and Sarah Elago of Kabataan.
“CPP-NPA in Congress enables the most terrible crimes to happen,” Badoy said.
Badoy said Salugpungan schools and Save Our Schools Network have become the training grounds for NPA combatants.
“These were the schools that were inside the Haran compound. So, instead of being educated to prepare the IP students for a career, they were trained to become NPAs. They are brainwashing them to become child warriors,” she said.
Marlon Bosantog of the legal cluster of the NTF-ELCAC said the government has been pushing to free all IPs from so-called “holding areas” as they are violations of the international humanitarian law.
“Cases of conscription, child abuse, trafficking are being pressed against the suspects behind these. We are doing the legal means, the due process. While we uncover more of these violations, we are filing more cases. The way to move forward is to bring accountability. The priests have already filed their cases. It’s not easy to arrest them because they are not staying in Davao. We have to find them and some of them have filed for bail,” Bosantog said.
PNP Davao Director Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal said IPs are often deployed to anti-government rallies.
“After all, that is the goal of the CPP-NPA, to overthrow the government,” he said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)