The Council of Elders of the Manobo Tribe passed a resolution on April 28 declaring the New People’s Army persona non grata in their ancestral domain.
Capt. Regie Go, the spokesperson of 4th Infantry Division, said the tribal council only followed the lead of the local government unit of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, which earlier also declared the communist group as undesirable.
The tribal leaders decried decades of atrocities, crimes, and human rights violations perpetrated by the NPA elements against their fellow Lumads. They also cited the deception employed by the rebels to recruit Lumads.
The CADT No. 090 lies in the boundaries of Loreto, Bunawan, and La Paz, and some parts of the Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur. It is considered rich in natural resources because of the vast species of flora and fauna, as well as mineral deposits said to be found in the area.
The thick vegetation and rough terrain made it a favorite hideout of the NPA until recently, when local tribesmen reporting their presence to authorities.
The declaration, the first of its kind among IP tribes in the region, was signed during the peace and development forum facilitated by the LGU of Loreto, in partnership with the tribal chieftains and Council of Elders of CADT 090, the 26th Infantry Battalion, and the Philippine National Police.
Hawudon Marcos Gonzales, the municipal tribal chieftain of Loreto, said the forum’s objective was the “creation and signing of covenant between the government and the tribal leaders declaring unity for peace and development, and the formal declaration of CPP-NPA as persona non grata in their areas.”
Forty members of the Manobo tribe attended the forum and witnessed the resolution signing.
“We need to make bold steps to fight for our right to self-determination in our own territory,” Gonzales said. “These communists-terrorists are freely roaming around our ancestral domains, committing numerous crimes and human rights violations against our helpless and innocent fellow Lumads.”
“They have wantonly disregarded our customs and traditions and even murdered our own tribesmen. They must be held accountable and liable for the injustices they have committed upon us,” he added.
Lt. Col. Romeo Jimenea, the 26th IB commander, said the Lumads have been at the receiving end of NPA’s abuses and crimes for a long time. “They deserve to live normal and peaceful lives,” he said
Army records show that from 2015 to date, 94 out of 102 NPAs who surrendered to the 26th IB belonged to different IP tribes in Agusan del Sur. Sixty-three of them came from the Manobo tribe. The former rebels have since received their financial and livelihood assistance through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. Others opted to join the Philippine Army either as regular soldiers or Cafgu Active Auxiliaries.