Mindanao group slams recruitment of lumads to fight the NPAs

Mar. 05, 2009

Davao Today

DAVAO CITYA Mindanao lumad (indigenous peoples) group condemned the forced recruitment of lumads in paramilitary group Task Force Gantangan, which it says not only violates basic civil and human rights but also turn lumads into human shields in the governments raging fight against Communist rebels.

lumads belonging to the Mindanao-wide indigenous peoples group Kalumaran claim theyre being recruited to fight the NPAs against their will. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

They cannot refuse, theyre being recruited against their will, said Dulphing Ogan, secretary-general of the indigenous peoples group Kalumaran. You know what happens when you join them. But if you refuse (the military), youre automatically branded as a New Peoples Army and become target for harassment.

Over a hundred lumads coming from five major indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao picketed on Monday the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) here and the Camp Panacan headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Command after a three-day gathering replete with stories of killings and harassments of lumads in different parts of Mindanao.

At Camp Panacan, they call for a stop to the militarization in the countryside and the forced recruitment of lumads in counterinsurgency operations. They also called for a stop to the encroachment of big mining firms and plantations that threaten food security in their ancestral domain area.

Theyre using the lumads in their campaign against insurgents, said Kerlan Fanagel, secretary-general of Kalumaran-affiliated Pasaka. It is against our Constitution, civilians are not supposed to be used in counterinsurgency campaign, Fanagel said.

lumads are made to fight against each other so that big mining companies and plantations can come in and take control of the ancestral domain, said Norma Capuyan, Kalumaran vice chair.

Ogan said that militarization remains to be the greatest problem facing the lumads, who are also fast losing their ancestral lands to big mining and plantation companies without their consent.

In other places, a mining firm operates but there are no plantations, he said, But in all places, the military presence brings about widespread fear.

Fanagel said the lumad paramilitary recruits are made to work 24 hours without pay. Theyre made to patrol the area armed only with their bolos. Wa na sila makaon kay di na katrabaho, mahasi pa (They dont have anything to eat because they could no longer work the farm, still theyre intimidated), he said.

Dulphing Ogan, Kalumaran secretary-general. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

The group said Task Force Gantangan is part of the National Internal Security Plan (NISP) to finally wipe out the insurgency problem by the end of President Arroyos term in 2010 by using indigenous peoples to fight the NPAs. Task Force Gantangan includes the setting up of paramilitary forces with lumad-sounding names like Bagani force, the Alimaong tribal justice, Magahat, Alamara and the Barangay Defense System (BDS) in areas where there are mixed lumad and settler population.

Monico Cayog, Kalumaran chair, called these paramilitary groups an insult to the culture of the lumads.

BDS are now being set up in the Davao city and Santa Cruz town boundary barangay of Sibulan; in Paquibato and in Digos city, according to the group.

Ogan said Task Force Gantangan also includes the fake surrender of entire lumad villages, forced to admit of being members of NPAs.

Fenagel said that in Digos, the new members of the barangay defense system were made to march on the street to show that theyre being backed up by the government. The group also criticised the so-called lumad leaders with strong backing from the military.

Capuyan said this encroachment of big mining and plantation firms in the ancestral lands of lumad threaten food security. We know, for a fact, that we cannot eat jathropa, she said, referring to huge tracks of landssome 500 hectares in Malungon town of South Cotabato alone–converted into jathropa biofuel plantations. Four of the 10 identified priority mining projects of the President in Mindanao are also in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental where lumads are also being displaced by ongoing military operations. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

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