MANILA – Leave us alone.
Mayor Gabino Ganggangan of Sadanga, Mt. Province couldn’t have put it more succinctly as he told the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to stop recruiting from the Indigenous Peoples' (IPs) ranks.
In a virtual press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Monday, Gangganan said they have been deceived, abused, and exploited by the CPP-NPA.
“Leave the Cordillera because their agenda is not the agenda of the Cordillera people. Stop recruiting and stop exploiting the youth of the Cordillera,” he said. “Stop recruiting into the armed revolution the kabataan (youth) of the IPs in the Cordillera. We Cordillerans know our aspirations and we know how to get them.”
The IPs of the Cordillera region are peace-loving people and they are not advocates of the armed struggle, he said.
He said as much as possible, they would like to fulfill their aspirations through peaceful and democratic means.
Gangganan recalled that their struggles with the communist terrorist groups (CTGs) started way back during the Marcos years when they opposed some projects.
CTGs offered help and took advantage of the opportunity to organize Cordillerans as their fighters.
“They took advantage of issues that the tribal people were trying to raise before with the national government before,” he said.
Eventually, tribal leaders realized that the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) was just using their lands as guerilla zones.
In the end, the Cordillerans understood that the ideologies of CTGs are different from their struggles.
“When we understood that their agenda is to supplant or topple the national government through armed violence, kaya pala may NPA sila (that is why they have the NPA) and they started imposing their policies on the communities. Now they have put up a shadow government and supplanting the tribal leaders,” Gangganan said.
The CPP-NPA, he said, infiltrates school campuses, universities, and colleges to take advantage of the natural nationalistic idealism of the youth.
Those who were recruited for simple activism were later dragged to become fighters.
CPP-NPA-NDF rebels today are mostly composed of IPs who were forced to become combatants.
Gaye Florendo, NTF-ELCAC assistant spokesperson on IP Concerns, said 70 to 80 percent of the CTG surrenderers in the country are IP members.
"The issue has existed for a long time, rampant disinformation and intentions to deceive the people,” she said. "The CCP-NPA-NDF and organizations linked to them are disguised sas party-list groups."
Datu Bawan Jake Lanes, a former cadre of the CPP-NPA-NDF and now executive director of Mindanao IP Council of Elders, said CTGs first pretend to help IP communities and help them solve their problems, especially on ancestral domain.
"Using church and non-government organizations as their fronts, they will offer help to the [IP] council of elders. Once they have the permission they will organize, putting up schools for the youth while the male IP members are taught to be Militia ng Bayan while the women are taught to support the struggle and the leaders would become revolutionary leaders," Lanes said.
IP leaders who try to resist will be killed, he added.
Once organized, tribe members are brought to Manila through the Manilakabayan, a yearly march by insurgents to plant combatants in strategic areas in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, lawyer Marlon Bosantog, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for IP Concerns, cited the case of the IP students who were trafficked from Davao to Cebu without the consent and knowledge of their parents.
The 19 IP minors were rescued by the police and social workers at the University of San Carlos (USC) retreat house in February.
They have been held in USC since March last year, trained and organized by Karapatan, a self-proclaimed human rights group.
The government has already filed for a motion for reconsideration that questioned the dismissal of the case against the seven abductors of the IP students.
The case was junked due to lack of jurisdiction, not because of lack of probable cause.
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)