Protecting tribal rights, customs

EDITORIAL

BY ROGER M. BALANZA

Protecting the lumads

            The Davao City Council has approved an ordinance, authored by Councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, chair of the Committee on Indigenous People and Muslim Affairs creating a seat for indigenous people in the local legislative body.

            The mandatory representation is required by the Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA) to give the IPs a voice in the decision-making of the local governments.

            With the IPs given mandatory representation in the city council, it is expected that they would now be given more focus and their various concerns attended to.

            A most pressing concern that the IP councilor should look into is the manner by which the military tap the IPs in its counter-insurgency campaign.

            The history of the fight against communist rebels is replete with the blood of the IPs, particularly in the hinterlands.

            The IPs are natural targets of the military recruitment of civilians to beef up its forces in the campaign against the communist rebels.

            In the guise of local community defense, the military tactic of using civilians for its community defense program came in varied names in the past three decades:  Barangay Self Defense Unit, (BSDU), Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF), Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), Special Civilian Active Auxiliaries (SCAAA), and now the Barangay Defense System (BDS).

            In Davao City the years in the 80s (when rebel presence was most acute), were bloody years for the lumads in the hinterland areas, as it was for civilian targets of the NPA Sparrow Units in the urban centers.

Normally the first victims of rebel atrocities after being recruited by the military as its first line defense against the communist rebels, many lumads died in assaults by rebels on their village checkpoints or in actual battle with the communists.

            The military recruitment was simple: the lumads are first subjected to massive indoctrination on the goodness of the government and the evils of communism, then enlisted as a civilian component of the military anti-communist campaign, then given arms like shotguns, carbines, and home made handguns, and then left alone to fight with their crude weapons the heavily-armed New People’s Army who are equipped with high power firearms like Armalite rifles and light machine guns.

            The infamous Ranu Massacre in Binaton, Digos, and Davao Del Sur was the bloodiest result of these military tactic to use the lumads in the fight against communist rebels.

            More than a dozen IPs, members of a religious sect who were conscripted by the military were massacred by the NPAs for being pro-military, inside their chapel.

            The victims included children, pregnant women and the aged.

            Today with the government and military experiencing utter failure to lure mass-vase support of the hinterland communities, they have revived the campaign to utilize civilians especially the lumads in the anti-insurgency campaign as community defense volunteers.

            The military’s latest instrument of war is the Barangay Defense System (BDS), which already cost the lives of many tribal villagers who were lured to join the BDS.

            Using civilians particularly the lumads in the fight against the heavily-armed communist rebels is a most unconscionable act that can be done by a government frantic to find a solution to its losing battle against communist insurgents.

The IPs belong to the most marginalized sector of our society, and therefore deserves the most special of attentions.

            We suggest that once the IP mandatory representative in the Davao City Council sits down, the first concern of this councilor representing the indigenous people, should be to conduct an investigation on how the military use the IPs in its anti-insurgency campaign as sitting ducks for rebel assassins.

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