IPs to int’l community: ‘Help save our culture, youth from dying’
By Ma. Teresa Montemayor
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Armed with the mission to save their culture and the next generation of their tribes, eight leaders of Filipino indigenous people (IP) appealed to the members of the European community to stop funding the front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Datu James Binayao, a leader of the Manobo-Talaandig Tribe in Maramag, Bukidnon, told the guests of a forum titled “A Conversation with Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines” on Sept. 20 that CPP-NPA groups use front organizations with a vast knowledge of the Constitution to deprive the IPs of their ancestral domains.
The forum, which was organized by European Institute for Asian Studies, a leading think tank in Brussels that specializes in Asian issues, was attended by representatives of Reuters and Euronews at Rue de La Loi 26, Brussels.
‘We are dying everyday’
This is how Binayao described their situation in Mindanao.
“For over 50 years, they stole the peace in our community. They stole our privileges and the youth of our tribes who they train as child warriors to go up against the government,” he said.
Binayao shared that their culture is also on the verge of vanishing as the CPP-NPA groups establish their communities within the IP communities.
“Our indigenous peoples’ knowledge system is almost 60 percent destroyed because they’re killing our tribal leaders. When our leaders die, the culture and tradition that are supposed to be passed on the next generation die with them because these are only transmitted through oral practice,” he said.
Meanwhile, Joel Dahusay, member of the Matigtalomo tribe in Talaingod, Davao, said he wanted to educate his tribesmen about their rights as stated in the Republic Act Number 8731 or An An Act to Recognize, Protect, And Promote the Rights of Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples” which the IPs consider as a covenant between them and the government.
“But our area is already infiltrated by the communist groups and they did not allow me to teach because I’m a graduate from a government school. They said I can only teach my tribe if I belong to their group but I don’t want to be a ‘parateacher’ for them because I know they’re no good,” Dahusay said.
He added that he has witnessed how a number of Salugpungan schools teach the children communist ideologies – preparing them to become professional activists after graduation.
“They are the violators of the IPs rights because their commanders kill the tribal leaders. They destroy the culture of the indigenous people like farming and our natural laws so we’re unable to practice our laws because the CPP NPAs have governed our communities,” Dahusay said.
While stressing that some non-government organizations (NGOs) are “only using IPs” and not actually helping them, Bae Magdalina Iligan from Mamanwa tribe of San Miguel, Surigao urged the international community to be careful in choosing organizations to help in the Philippines.
“I was tasked to capture some leaders and even some people in my family. They force killings within families and organized evacuations or “haran” to raise funds by the same NGOs like the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc.,” Iligan said.
Iligan appealed to the forum attendees to help them inform the whole world about the atrocities brought about by the CPP-NPA in Mindanao and to stop supporting their groups who are responsible for killing the next generation of IPs.
Meanwhile, Dr. Annette Mangrobang of the University of the Philippines Diliman-Philippine Institute for Development Studies said certain actions can be done even if the list is unavailable.
“We at the civil society can and should do something about this to prevent funds from being used in illegal activities that we’ve heard from our IPs,” Mangrobang said.
Earlier, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) has promised that it would be more careful in choosing which non-government organizations (NGOs) to help in the Philippines.
This, after a group of indigenous people’s (IP) leaders visited their office in Rome, Italy to report about communists and left-leaning groups taking advantage of the help they send.
UN-FAO Partnerships and Capacity Development Division Director Marcela Villareal said she is touched by the stories of the IP leaders’ bitter experiences under the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army conquest of their respective areas. (PNA)