GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines asked tribal leaders in South Cotabato province on Monday to help stop the recruitment activities of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels in their communities.

This, as the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Tupi, South Cotabato reported that nine of every 10 rebels who had been captured in the area were indigenous peoples (IPs) or members of local tribal groups.

"Ninety percent of the captured NPA rebels are tribal people while the remaining 10 percent are either Ilonggo or Bisaya from Davao Del Sue and North Cotabato," said Capt. Marvin Gammad, 27IB civil-military operations head.

He said NPA recruiters look to the IPs as ideal cadres mainly because of their "physical strength, agility and mastery of the terrain."

The IPs are considered as potent mobilization forces due to their number in the countryside, he said.

"Their low level of literacy also makes them vulnerable to manipulation," the official said in a media forum.

Gammad said tribal communities have become nesting grounds of guerrilla units due to their remoteness and inaccessibility.

He said that through its system of "arouse, organize, mobilize," NPAs have been penetrating IP communities by disguising themselves as non-government organization or cooperative workers.

They entice the IPs to join and later indoctrinate them with NPA ideals that are premised on toppling the democratic government through destabilization, he said.

Gammad urged tribal leaders to help counter these activities by educate their people about the ill intentions of the NPA.

"We need to remind them that joining this guerrilla group will only bring poverty and death," he said.

Henry Malida, IP mandatory representative local legislative officer, expressed confidence that the province's tribal people are well-informed of the negative results of joining guerrilla groups.

He said they have been conducting regular information and education campaigns in IP communities in coordination with village and tribal leaders.(PNA)