DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The National Democratic Front of the Philippines belied the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte that 75 percent of the members of the New People’s Army are Lumad.
In a statement emailed to the media on Thursday, Maria Malaya, spokesperson of NDFP North Eastern Mindanao said Duterte’s statement was “a big lie, deceitful and provokes further attacks against the Lumad people.”
During his visit to the 401st Infantry Brigade in Butuan City on Saturday, June 17, Duterte told reporters that 75 percent of the NPAs are Lumad.
“75 percent of the rebels now, Lumads. Sila ang pinupusta ng NPA. Hindi ‘yung mga Bisaya, hindi ‘yung mga Ilonggo, hindi ‘yung mga Ilocano. Sila ang ginagawang sundalo (75 percent of the rebels now are Lumad. They are used as pawns by the NPA. Not the Bisaya, not the Ilonggo, not the Ilocano. They are the ones used as soldiers),” Duterte said.
But Malaya said the President’s statement even provokes attacks against the Lumad.
She said the Lumad people are a minority in terms of the population, making up only “close to 7 percent.”
“In addition, the NPA operates in a large section of the mountains, plains, highways, coastal areas and town centers of the region’s five provinces and are the sources of Red fighter recruits. Thus, the Lumad people cannot comprise the larger number of members of the NPA-NEMR,” she said.
The NPA in NEMR operates in the Caraga region, which covers Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
Malaya said Duterte’s statement “provokes further attacks against the Lumad people as it is a component of the psychological operation of the US-Duterte regime to confuse, divide and pit the Lumad people against each other.”
She said the resources within the ancestral lands of the Lumad people are targeted by the local ruling classes and capitalists. She added that the Lumad’s land are constantly targeted by extensive land grabbing and large scale mining and plantations.
Malaya also said Duterte has already “offered the lands of Caraga and the entire island of Mindanao, particularly the ancestral lands of the Lumad and Moro people, for the projects and plans of foreign investors.” She said these projects and plans are connected with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
She said in order to defeat the NPA, the government is using the military campaign to mobilize the people against the revolutionary movement.
“It is similar to the ‘fish and water’ method. The people are apparently the water and the NPA, the fish. Poison the water to kill the fish. The enemy have been using violence and deceit to “drain the water.” They are using this action now against the Lumad people,” Malaya said.
Duterte also said the NPA continue to exploit the Lumad and offered them instead to become soldiers of the government.
“Kayong mga Lumad nasa NPA, kung mag-surrender kayo, I will take you in as sundalo sa Armed Forces of the Philippines. Parehong sweldo. Sundalo talaga, may sweldo, may trabaho. Diyan kayo sa NPA, magtiis kayo (Those of you Lumads who are with the NPAs, if you surrender, I will take you in as soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. You will receive the same salary just like the soldiers. If you remain with the NPAs, then suffer the consequences),” he said.
Duterte also said that he will talk with the NPAs and appealed to them to lessen its attacks.
“Kita mag istorya man ta. Ug gusto mo, tutal ug pagka human ani, mag amigo gyud kaha ta. Hinay hinay nalang mog pag engkwentro (We will talk, if you want, after this, we will be friends. Just lessen the encounters),” Duterte said in his speech during the 50th anniversary of Agusan del Norte in Cabadbaran State University last June 17.
The Communist Party of the Philippines said they anticipate the resumption of the fifth round of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in two to three months.
The substantive agenda of the talks include the social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The meat of the peace negotiations is believed to be that of the resolution of the social and economic problems. (davaotoday.com)