MANILA – A ranking official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) on Wednesday said he finds it odd that Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Eufemia Cullamat continues to pin the blame on the military the abuses committed against the indigenous peoples (IPs) even when they are telling the whole world that the atrocities are the handiwork of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).
"Rep. Cullamat continues to put the blame on the military for the 'alleged' abuses due to the 'militarization' in their (IPs) ancestral domain. Why can't she hear the cries of the IP members of the Ambassadors of Truth who are telling a different story? The latter has the resolve to expose in detail named NPA members who have killed and abused their family members versus Rep. Cullamat's "mere allegations" against the security sector," Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. said in a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency.
He added that this refusal to hear clear-cut testimonies of CPP-NPA abuses from her fellow IPs could be brought by the fear that the “Ambassadors of Truth” might go about exposing her siblings who active in the communist rebel ranks and front organizations.
"Her siblings include Pablito Campos alias 'Batik' or 'Ponsoy', political officer of NPA Guerilla Front 21A who was collared by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in San Francisco, Agusan Sur last February 2018 with his M-14 rifle. Eight other rebels who had warrants of arrest for various crimes, including the murder of PO1 Sharmaine Canete were with him but were able to escape arrest. Another sister, Bae Gloria Campos Tumalon, is the chair of KATRIBO MO -- an NGO (non-government organization) that promotes communist principles," said Parlade, who is also Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations.
Her attitude against the IPs, he said, is very disconcerting as she refused to heed the IPs' complaints and addresses them as "lumads" -- a term popularized by the CPP-NPA, in a bid to assume control of these indigenous peoples.
Adding salt to the wound is the fact that Cullamat is herself a Manobo, he added.
"Rep. Cullamat is a Manobo yet she continues to call her fellow IPs as lumads. Isn't that an aberration from the culture that she says she wants to preserve?" he said.
Anti-Manobos but pro-communists
He also slammed Cullamat not listening to the plight of her fellow Manobos and taking the cudgels for the communist rebels instead.
"Is she representing the CPP instead? Many of these IPs went as far as the US and Europe, as well the UN (United Nations) and the EU (European Union), in order for the world to hear what the CPP and its NPA have been doing to their tribal leaders, families, and children," he added.
This disconnect, Parlade said, was further heightened when Cullamat pushed for the reopening of Salugpungan schools even when the government ordered them closed for non-compliance with the curriculum set by the Department of Education (DepEd) and other irregularities.
"October is the IP month and this is her gift to her fellow IPs? To push for the opening of Salugpungan schools so they can continue to exploit them? Continue to systematically radicalize their children? Continue with their IBON manuals which teaches that their national hero is Father Pops Tentorio, the Italian rebel priest who converted more than 700 student IPs into NPA cadres? To agitate even more IP youth into rising up against state forces?" he asked.
He added that if Cullamat is really protecting the interests of IPs, then why were Salugpungan schools built without free, prior, and informed consent of the IPs they were supposed to be serving.
"The IP tribe leaders asked DepEd to close the schools because it was ruining their children yet Rep. Cullamat resisted the closure. Is this why Rep. Cullamat and her group are trying to repeal or disregard the provisions of the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples' Right Acts) Law? For it is the only law in the world that adequately protects their kind," he added.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon in July accused the Salugpungan tribal school system of promoting the CPP-NPA ideology that espouses violence overthrow of the government, trains its students to conduct mass actions against the government, and uses curriculum not in accordance with the DepED guidelines.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Esperson, who is NTF ELCAC vice-chairperson, said these allegations are backed by testimonies of former Salugpungan teachers and students.
"These straightforward questions are posed by Datu Awing Apuga, Lahong Chiary Balinan and the rest of their group. They went to the UN and Europe to seek answers from the organizations and governments the CPP duped to obtain billions worth of funding. Now they are back to seek answers from you, Rep. Cullamat. Prove yourself to be a true ally of the IPs," Parlade said referring to the eight IP leaders from Mindanao who recently went on Truth caravan in Europe.
"We pose the same questions for (Kabataan Party-list) Rep. (Sarah) Elago and those who continue to fight for Save Our Schools (SOS). If reopened, we hope you will send your children to these Salugpungan schools so you will know what we are talking about," he added. (PNA)