“It is not true that soldiers on the ground are after rebels. They are really after civilians who are protecting their ancestral domains.” – Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of Kalumaran
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Jude Baggo, public information officer of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, finds it hard to comprehend why those who are at the forefront of the struggle in protecting the environment are the ones being attacked by the military.
“We are not criminals. Why are they attacking us?” Baggo said.
“Is it wrong to help those in need and empower them with services? Is it wrong to organize people’s organizations? I cannot comprehend it, really. There is nothing wrong with us. There is something wrong with them,” Baggo told Bulatlat.com, referring to the military.
Baggo is among those who trooped to Camp Aguinaldo on Oct. 29 to express their rage on the rampant killings of indigenous peoples in the country. During the protest action, leaders of indigenous peoples took turns throwing pig’s blood at the logo of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). A soldier then hosed down the blood after the program.
In a statement, Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), said that under the Aquino administration, they have documented 50 indigenous peoples killed as of Oct. 24.
The “killing frenzy” and human rights violations, according to Kamp, is a result of the arming of indigenous peoples into paramilitary groups backed by the AFP. Kamp said there are at least 14 paramilitary groups that sow terror in indigenous peoples’ communities.
During the protest action, Baggo said activists are not spared from the vilification campaigns and that he, himself, is among those included in the target list of the military.
Addressing the soldiers in Camp Aguinaldo he said, “‘Protect the people,’ you say, but soldiers are attacking those who are for the protection of the environment.”
Baggo shared that just this year, posters with his photo were distributed in various areas in the Cordillera region. The poster stated that he is smiling and happy because he receives salary from the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“They said that I am the brains of the NPA in Ifugao,” he added.
Asked if he knows who was behind the posters, Baggo said that it was the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. “But they denied it. What do you expect?” he said.
Paramilitary groups, backed by the AFP, he added, do not just join military operations but also take part in vilification campaigns against activists.
The CPA has also received reports of massive recruitment of CAFGU in the area. Those who finished their training, according to Baggo, would receive at least P3,600 to P5,000 salary ($8p to $111).
Hundreds of kilometers from Cordillera, Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of Kalumaran down south in Mindanao, said communities of indigenous peoples are also being terrorized by military-backed armed groups.
“Forming these paramilitary groups is an indication that (the military) is afraid of the NPA,” Ogan said during the protest action in front of Camp Aguinaldo.
Indigenous peoples, he added, are being attacked to pave way for mining and logging businesses. The AFP serves as “investment defense force” protecting projects from the NPA “who stand in the way of development particularly in the rural areas,” according to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“It is not true that soldiers on the ground are after rebels. They are really after civilians who are protecting their ancestral domains,” Ogan said.
‘Bastardization of Lumad culture’
Two Lumads were recently killed and two farmers were disappeared in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur in Caraga region as a result of massive military operations the area.
On Oct. 24, Henry Alameda, a resident of sitio Cabalawan and council member of Malahutayong Pagkabisog Alang sa Sumusunod, has just finished breakfast when armed men dragged him out of the house and shot him in the head.
On the same day, the house of village chief Alejandro “Undo” Dumaguit was peppered with bullets by at least eight men. His 13-year-old daughter Elejen was hit on the stomach. His son Aldren, 21, was hit while trying to cover her sister and died instantly.
Soldiers are also reportedly behind the disappearance of two farmers Elde Martinez and Jojo Tejero of Surigao del Sur.
The arming of Lumad groups and pitting them against other Lumads who are for the protection of their ancestral domains, is bastardization of their culture and causes grave human rights violations in their communities, according to Malayao.
“The culture of impunity in our country becomes more embedded in our society with the creation of these death squads,” she added.
Kamp said the government should immediately scrap Executive Order No. 546 that allows the military to create paramilitary groups as force multiplier in its counterinsurgency program.
Scrap IPRA, NCIP
Asked if concerned government agencies such as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) extend assistance, Ogan said they have received none.
Kamp, in a statement, called for the scrapping of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act and its implementing agency NCIP for its failure to “deter the plunder of our national patrimony and exploitation of our indigenous territories.”
The law, according to the group, has instead “legalized the plunder and ancestral land-grabbing of capitalist corporations” and played no role in stopping these projects despite clear pronouncements of indigenous peoples resisting it.
The NCIP has also remained silent on the issue of killings, enforced disappearances, forced evacuations, and militarization of communities, according KAMP.
Malayao said, “The encampment of military troops is a violation of international humanitarian law. We demand the AFP to get out of our lands. Human rights violators and war criminals are not welcome to stay in our communities.”