NEW YORK CITY Despite getting death threats for breaking their silence on the atrocities of the communist terrorist groups (CTGs) in the Philippines, indigenous people's (IP) leaders on Tuesday vowed to remain steadfast in rallying the international community to resist the armed insurgency movement's narratives.
We expected that even before we spoke about the communist terrorists' atrocities, we will already have those threats, Christine Banugan, who is currently in the United States for a series of speaking engagements along with seven other tribal leaders, said in an interview before members of the media here.
Banugan, whose father and uncle were killed by members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), said her family has been receiving threats in the past days from the rebel group for voicing out the attacks committed by the CPP-NPA-NDF against IP communities.
We don't have any regrets because for us, land is life and if we need to sacrifice our lives, if we need to risk another life, I think it's worth it, for the survival of our tribe, said Banugan, who now takes the helm of the Mandaya tribe in Davao Oriental.
She added that they only want their voices to be heard despite all these struggles.
Because if we will not, who else will?, she said.
Tribal leader Magdalina Iligan, on the other hand, said members of the CPP-NPA continue to intimidate her for speaking up against their harassment in her ancestral land.
Inaabangan nila ako, kasi pag NPA ka dati, pag tumigil ka nang mag-NPA, ayaw nila na malaman ng mga tao ang totoong nangyari (They would look after me because if you are a former NPA member and has turned back from the group, they would not want the people to know the truth), she said.
Iligan, however, said she will remain true to her commitment to fight for the rights of her people, and stand up against oppression and harassment posed by the communist terrorists.
Hindi na ako natatakot. Kung hindi ako tatayo, parang mawawala na yung tradisyon namin, yung tribo namin (I'm no longer afraid. If I don't stand up, then we will lose our tradition, our tribe), she said.
Iligan added that she was only 14 years old when she became a member of the rebel group, eventually becoming secretary of the Samahang Kabataang Makabayan in 2005, tasked to recruit new members from the youth sector, and later on as treasurer and youth coordinator for Bayan Muna in 2008.
She surrendered to military troops in Surigao del Sur in 2016.
Amid the threats being faced by the tribal leaders, Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), called on United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, to look into the situation confronting IP communities in Mindanao.
Let us call on UN Rapporteur Tauli-Corpuz to help, take action against the CTGs. Tauli-Corpuz should stop this bullying of the CTGs, even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines continue to secure the IP families in the area, he said.
NTF ELCAC will not allow another killing of any person critical of the CPP NPA's duplicitous and deceptive ways, he added.
NPA threats vs. LGUs
Meanwhile, Taytay, Palawan Mayor Romy Salvame on Monday said he and some town officials received death threats from the NPA, since after the municipal council passed a resolution denouncing the rebel group as persona non grata.
The Salvador Luminoso-Bienvenido Vallever Command (SL-BVC) based in Palawan, in a statement posted on its website, warned that they will punish the town officials of Taytay and two other municipalities, Brooke's Point and Quezon, which pushed for the passing of a resolution calling the armed group persona non grata.
The group called on the local government units (LGUs) to withdraw the resolutions, saying they were tantamount to declaring war against the armed group, adding that it is giving the LGUs enough time to correct their mistake.
The armed group also cited the creation of the NTF ELCAC, which stands on the front line in working out a mechanism to help end the decades-old communist insurgency.
Apart from its pursuit to end armed insurgency in the country, the NTF ELCAC seeks to unify the vulnerable and exploited sectors and take legal actions against the CPP-NPA supporters who continue to destroy the Philippines.
Contained in Executive Order No. 70, Duterte's creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) seeks to synchronize the utilization of the government's instrumentalities of power with the capabilities of private sector stakeholders to finally end the 50-year long deceit, lies, and atrocities committed by the communist terrorists against the people."
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency