MANILA – About 87 percent of surrenderers from the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao are members of indigenous peoples (IPs), according to an official of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, the spokesperson for Legal Affairs and IP concerns of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and NCIP-Caraga Director, confirmed this during a virtual press briefing on Monday.
“Eighty-seven percent of surrenderers from 2016 to 2020 in Mindanao are members of the indigenous peoples. Just goes to say that the exploitation of the IP community is so deep, that majority of them who are being victimized by the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) belong to the ICC or the Indigenous Cultural Communities,” Bosantog said.
He said they have already filed cases against the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran, with the IP minors as the primary complainants and the NCIP as co-complainant.
The 19 IP minors rescued in Cebu City in February were taken by UCCP Haran organizers without parental consent.
Cases were also filed in relation to the death of two infants while in UCCP-Haran last year.
Covid-19 reportedly killed an eight-month-old while another was due to squalid conditions.
Hiding the condition and cause of death of the children also placed the lives of other IPs inside UCCP Haran in danger, Bosantog said.
“Furthermore, we have children coming from UCPP Haran who actually filed cases against the people who recruited them, who brought them to UCCP Haran. During their movement to UCCP Haran and to other parts of the country, they were organized by Karapatan,” Bosantog said.
The children, according to Bosantog, were issued Bayan Muna identification cards before boarding their flights.
“They were actually taught how to do ambush, how to do explosives and bombs training, how to actually recover wounded and dead cadres that were part of encounters and they were actually were part of several encounters. Some of these children were trained as medic,” he narrated.
Cases of child abuse, trafficking in persons, and violation of international humanitarian law and even the Sanitation Act are pending in Davao City and Tagum City courts.
Cases vs congressman
Bosantog said cases have been filed against Makabayan Bloc Representative France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list) and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo.
Castro and Ocampo were part of a so-called “humanitarian mission” in Davao del Norte in 2018 to aid IP students and teachers.
“The ICC and IP parents themselves said they were chased by France Castro, Satur Ocampo, and company. While the case of kidnapping was dismissed because of some technicalities, cases of child abuse persist until today,” Bosantog said.
He said Castro had been issued a warrant of arrest but posted bail.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
By Marita Moaje