President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, extended for the second straight year this 2019, continues to wreak havoc in the lives of Lumad children, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Southern Mindanao Region said.
In a statement posted on its website today, the NDFP reported that a platoon of the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army accosted and seized 17-year old Loujean Antian Lumbatan, a Grade 7 student of Sinuda High School, and 10-year old Ara Mystica Antian Pangcat, a Grade 5 student of Cabalansihan Elementary School at Sitio Sanggiapo, Brgy Sinuda, Kitaotao in Bukidnon province at around 11:00 in the morning last February 18.
“For no apparent reason, the two unarmed Lumad minors were arrested and held incommunicado at the unit’s camp in Sitio Sanggiapo between 11:00 in the morning and 11:00 in the evening,” the NDFP said.
Early in the afternoon, the parents and some relatives searched frantically for the missing children and proceeded to confront the soldiers but were turned away by the soldiers who insisted they knew nothing of the children’s whereabouts, the group added.
The girls were released in the afternoon of the next day, February 19, but not after being subjected to harrowing interrogation and were brought to the 88th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Maramag, the NDFP said.
The girls reported that they could hear their parent’s voices outside the camp in Sitio Sanggiapo but were warned by the soldiers not to make any sound.
When confronted why they arrested and detained the two girls, the soldiers reportedly claimed they were only after “the[ir] safety,” the NDFP said.
The Bukidnon incident followed the January 30 seizure of two toddlers, a one-year old and a two-year old, and their subsequent forced separation from their parents and guardians by AFP and PNP troops following a raid on the office of the Misamis Oriental Peasants Association (MOFA) in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, the group said.
“In Lumad areas in Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and elsewhere in the Southern Mindanao, bombings, shelling and indiscriminate firing within populated communities by AFP troops and their paramilitaries Bagani and Alamara have terrorized hundreds of children,” the NDFP said in its statement.
The NDFP also scored the arrest of three civilians of the 71st IB last February 20 at Sitio Binogsayan, Brgy. Napnapan in Pantukan town.
Eddie Avila, Graciano Embalsado and Pulpy Lariwan were later forced to “surrender” as members of the New People’s Army (NPA), even as local government officials insisted that the three were in fact civilians, Rubi del Mundo, NDFP-SMR spokesperson said.
‘Localized peace talks’
But Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Eduardo Año said the so-called surrenders are real that stem from the continuing success of localized peace talks between local government officials and the revolutionary groups.
“Dahil sa sipag at pagpupursigi ng ating mga local officials, natanggal na ang kaliskis sa mga mata ng mga dating rebelde at naliwanagan na sila,” Año said in a statement posted on the DILG website today, citing the reported surrender of more than 200 alleged Communist supporters in Negros Island last month.
The DILG secretary
claimed the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed
Conflict by Duterte will also lead to more rebel surrenders because of its
focus on localized peace engagements.
Año also said DILG’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) has disbursed around P488 million in 2018to aid former rebels and their immediate family members
The NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, however, dismissed government’s claims, saying so-called peace and development outreach programs by the Duterte administration are mere public relations stunts that are part of its psychological war tactics.
“They are in fact mere PR stunts which hold neither a grain of truth nor reflect the sentiments of thousands of Lumad who continue to be victimized by the US-Duterte regime’s hated martial law,” Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesperson, said.
Sanchez added it eludes common sense that the Lumad and the peasants should support government troops when it is they who seek to destroy their way of living, sell ancestral land to greedy and exploitative capitalists threaten or kill those who opposes them. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)