DAVAO CITY—President Duterte’s plan to train “lumad” (indigenous peoples) as government militiamen and his promise to give them P20,000 for every slain New People’s Army (NPA) rebel would pit indigenous peoples (IPs) against each other, an alliance of minority groups based in Mindanao said.
Jerome Succor Aba, Sandugo cochair, said the offer was a bold attempt to reduce the lumad into being “mercenaries.”
“The lumad might be poor but it is not in their culture … to kill for money,” Aba told the Inquirer on Monday.
In Manila, Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the President’s statement suggested that IPs could be used as “instruments of violence against fellow Filipinos.”
“Lumad have long been victims of different forms of injustice. They form part of the country’s most vulnerable and marginalized,” De Guia told the Inquirer.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said this “bounty-hunting scheme” was a “divide and rule machination” that would further the deterioration of an already grim human rights situation in lumad communities.
Aba, however, said Mr. Duterte’s offer would be seized by those who would be blinded by the offer.
“The list goes on of lumad getting killed by their fellow lumad who were trained, brainwashed and paid by the Philippine military and the government,” Aba said.
He said the government’s use of tribal people in the anti-insurgency campaign was not new, noting it had been blamed for killings in the provinces.
“By trying to divide and pit them against each other through military training and offer of money to kill is simply a bastardization of their culture. President Duterte reeks of the worst discrimination against the lumad,” Aba added.
He warned the offer could also embolden the military to target those it simply suspected of being rebels.
Ryan Amper, spokesperson for the human rights group, Barug Katungod Mindanao, said Mr. Duterte’s offers of reward and training appeared to be an attempt to revive the dreaded anticommunist groups Alsa Masa, Tadtad, Pulahan and Ituman in a bloody witch hunt against any suspected communist rebel or sympathizer.
“Duterte is giving blanket license to kill to indigenous paramilitaries like the Alamara, Black Fighters, Bocales Group, Magahat, etc. They will not be able to kill armed NPA [rebels] for sure because the latter have the capacity to kill them as well. But they will massacre hapless civilians, parade their … bodies as slain combatants and claim the reward for themselves,” Amper said.
The military has been training lumad and other villagers to become Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) members.
In December, dozens of Manobo, Tagakaulo, B’laan, Bagobo and T’boli lumad finished their basic military training in Sarangani province.
They became part of the 330 new CAA members who, the military said, would be deployed to their villages in the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato and Davao Occidental.
“They are the communities’ first line of defense … One of their roles is to protect their communities from armed NPA [rebels],” said Col. Roberto Ancan, commander of the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade based in Sarangani.
In an interview last month, Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said: “We do not tolerate abuses by our men. In fact, we always tell them to put prime consideration to human rights during military operations and even in the conduct of checkpoints.” —WITH A REPORT FROM MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ
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