MANILA – For the very first time, the Matigsalug tribe in Marilog, Davao City held a flag-raising ceremony after being freed from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
It was indeed a historic day on July 30 for the elders and tribe members of the Matigsalug as the whole community attentively sang the national anthem “Lupang Hinirang”.
“Nagkaroon na ng flag raising for the first time. Malaya na sila (They had the flag-raising for the first time. They are now free) and they were very thankful,” said Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 (Davao Region) said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday.
Barangay Tamugan in Marilog, home of Matigsalug tribe, was a stronghold of the CPP-NPA-NDF for years.
Last February, the Revitalized Pulis sa Barangay (RPSB) started engaging with the Matigsalug tribe.
Some members of the tribe, according to PRO-11, were also members of the Pulang Bagani Command of the CPP-NPA-NDF, a listed terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Former CPP-NPA-NDF stronghold
Escobal said Marilog has also been the stronghold of the CPP-NPA-NDF in Davao as early as 1990.
He said the tribe members view RPSB as conquerors when the police in the barangay tried to engage with Matigsalug community.
“Nung dumating tayo parang ang tingin ng indoctrination sa kanila, parang pinapalabas nila na itong gobyernong pumapasok continuation ito nung colonial past natin, akala nila mananakop tayo kaya pala sila nagre-resist (When we first arrived in the community they viewed the government as a continuation of the colonial past, they thought that we are conquerors that is why there was resistance),” he said.
Escobal said Barangay Tamugan is one of the 215 priority barangays identified by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
He said at first, the tribe members thought that the RPSB will not stay in their community as long as they are not used to being served by the government.
“Nung tumatagal na dun, napansin nila na habang tumatagal marami ng ginagawa, naglalagay ng mga solar lights, tapos nagagamit na nila yung mga services ng LGU, nakakarating na dun (After some time, the tribe members noticed that the RPSB has been doing things for the community, they were installing solar lights, then LGU services continued to be felt),” Escobal said.
He said since the LGU is undermanned, most of the time, the police officers help the LGU of Marilog bring the services to the far-flung communities.
“Ang naging epekto, the whole 38 na regular NPAs sumurender sa kanila. Yun ang nagtulak, they saw na totoo itong ginagawang ito ng gobyerno na ‘to (The effect was, all the 38 regular NPA members surrendered to the RPSB. This prompted them to surrender. They saw that what the government is doing is true service),” he added.
Providing for the needs of the community
Escobal said the RPSB will stay in the area until the permanent development intervention of the government has been delivered.
Through the NTF ELCAC, a budget of PHP20 million has been allocated to every NPA-infested barangay through the Barangay Development Program (BDP).
“Ito yung mga (This includes) farm to market roads, health and sanitation facilities, electrification, national greening, health stations, livelihood programs, so yun ang (so that is the) breakdown for the budget per barangay,” Escobal said.
He added that the process will take some time as since the government has just started the program.
Escobal said as the RPSB conducts the needed assessment of the community, they discover the other needs of the community.
They also bridge the community to the LGU for additional support, he added.
The PRO-11 conducted various activities and programs during a two-day activity of the RPSB on July 30-31.
Among the activities conducted were capacity building, tree-planting, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) registration, and turnover of livelihood assistance for their rabbit raising and farming tools.
The activities started with a flag-raising ceremony, the first to be held in the community, as other government agencies also participated in the event.
At least 57 members of the Matigsalug tribe registered to process their PhilHealth IDs.
Escobal said Barangay Tamugan is a representation of the situation of communities included in the geographically isolated disadvantaged areas that is being taken advantage of by the CPP-NPA-NDF.
“The government is already here to deliver, especially under the administration of our president, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, to reach these areas where the presence of the government was not felt by its members. If there is no government before, now this government is trying to bring its services,” 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)