DAVAO CITY — As the formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front continue on its second day on Tuesday, August 23 members of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao called for the abolition of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) because of the agency’s inaction to address extrajudicial killings and displacement of Lumad due to militarization.
In a protest action in front of the NCIP 11 in Sandawa here, Jong Monzon, secretary general of PASAKA, called the commission “inutile for its inability to address the plight of the Lumad,” especially the evacuees who have been staying inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound since April last year.
He said the agency “tolerated” the formation of paramilitary groups such as the Alamara and the Magahat Bagani, which are blamed for the killing of leaders of indigenous peoples and evacuation of residents. Monzon said the NCIP never issued a statement calling for the pullout of military from their communities and “kept silent” when human rights violations were committed.
He also claimed that the NCIP failed to address their concerns even after they have submitted their complaints to the agency.
“Sa tinuod lang, daghan nami’g gidala nga papel nga gipasa aning ahensya sa gobyerno nga NCIP. Kauban nako ang mga datu, ug direktang biktima diha sa komunidad. Ang ilahang saysay lang, kung mahimo, kuhaan ninyo ug picture ang nagkulata, makuhaan ninyog papel kung tinuod ba nang inyong giingon, kung naay video. Kumbaga ang trabaho sa ahensya sa gobyerno, ihatag na mismo sa Lumad” (As a matter of fact, we have already submitted a lot of papers to the NCIP. I was with the datus and the victims themselves. What they said was that, if we could, we should have brought pictures of the assailants, papers that will verify the event, even videos. In other words, they are giving their responsibility to us), Monzon said.
He said they are calling on the NCIP to see for themselves the situation of the IPs in the communities.
Not part of NCIP mandate
However, Regional Hearing Officer for NCIP Region XI, Atty. Jose Dumagan Jr. said that the demands set by groups were out of their jurisdiction.
He said the demand to pull out the military troops is not part of the mandate of the NCIP.
“Pananglitan, kanang undangon ang presensiya sa military sa kabukiran, dili na na mandate sa NCIP. Mandate na na sa Philippine Army, or sa DND” (For example, they demand the pullout of the military from their lands. That is not the mandate of the NCIP. That is the mandate of the Philippine Army, or the Department of National Defense),” Dumagan said in an interview.
Dumagan also belied claims that the NCIP backs the formation of paramilitary groups. He said the commission cannot interfere with the armed Lumad groups because the formation of armed militias within the Lumad communities are part of the Lumad’s customary laws.
“Integral part sa ilang customary laws nga naa jud silay mga bagani. Gani lang lagi, lahi na pud ang pagsabot sa isa. Kay ang pagtan-aw nila, Alamara. Ang pagtan-aw sa opisina sa NCIP, Bagani (The Bagani is integral in their customary laws. What happens, is that some groups interpret it differently. They call these groups the Alamara. The NCIP views them as Bagani),” Dumagan said.
Dumagan cites the case of Datu Laris Mansaloon, whom IP groups have tagged as a member of the Alamara.
“If you look at the family of Datu Laris, they are a family of tribal warriors. It turned out that in that family, they have relatives who were also Baganis who enlisted as CAFGUs),” Dumagan said.
Dumagan added that it is difficult to determine whether a certain armed individual was a Bagani, an alamara, or an enlisted Cafgu.
“How sure are we na kining mga tawhana, Alamara ilang gibarugan, nga kung makigatubang sila sa NCIP ug sa gobyerno, Bagani man ilang paila sa amoa. Wala pud mi katungod nga muingon mag undang pagka-Bagani baya ang enforcer sa tribo (How sure are we that these people are really members of the Alamara, when they identify themselves as Bagani when they meet with the NCIP and the government? We don’t have the right to tell them to stop being Baganis because they are the enforcers of their tribes),” Dumagan said.
Dumagan also said that the conflict can only be solved through a dialogue between the Lumad in Haran and those left back in Talaingod to sit down and settle their differences through talks, where the NCIP, the local government and the support groups are only facilitators.
Monzon said they will join other progressive groups in holding protest actions in front of government agencies for the whole week.
From their camp-out in front of the NCIP XI office, the protesters marched to Department of Justice Region 11 to call for the dismissal of “trumped-up” charges against militant leaders on Wednesday morning, August 24. They also called for the release of all political prisoners.
The group will also hold a protest action in front of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau 11 on Wednesday afternoon. (davaotoday.com)