Ata-Manobos file multiple cases vs. NPA, Haran
A GROUP of Ata-Manabos filed a complaint before the Davao City Prosecution Office against the leadership of UCCP-Haran and the New People’s Army for alleged exploitation and recruitment of their tribal members.
The group filed criminal cases for violations of Republic Act No. 9208, as amended by Republic Act No. 10364 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208), and RA 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse), Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and RA 9851 (Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity).
Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, legal cooperation cluster spokesperson under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said that at the center of the cases would be the children who are the most vulnerable to the propaganda and promises of the NPA.
“We also filed cases of child abuse because when these children were recruited, they were minors and were incapable of giving consent,” Bosantog said. As for the violation of the International Humanitarian Laws, he said it was very clear that the children were later forced to become combatants for the NPA.
The complaint was based on the case build-up conducted by the Police Regional Office XI, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group XI, Eastern Mindanao Command, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The Ata-Manobos came from Davao del Norte and Davao Occidental.
“When they are made to stay in Haran a religious institution they were taught to make bombs, to ambush our soldiers, they were made to dismantle firearms and they were indoctrinated all against their will,” he said.
In several interviews, UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis had always denied accusations that they are holding the Lumads staying in the area as hostages. He said that they are always free to leave. But at the same time, they can’t turn their backs on the IPs seeking shelter as they escaped the militarization in their communities.
The Pasaka Lumad Confederation, one of the organizers of Haran, also said in a Facebook post in May 2020, that the Lumad families can always go home but they opted to stay out of fear.
“Even if we want to go home, we are alarmed at how the Alamara, the military, and the state are forcing us to do so,” the group said in a statement. “Even if we want to return to our communities, would there be peace if the Alamara and the military will continue to harass us? This is the very reason why we evacuated from our communities.”
But Bosantog said they have evidence that the IPs were transported to different parts of the country where they were forced to join rallies in exchange for food. He added they were brought to Manila through Bayan Muna cars.
“One of the cases is forced labor. They made slaves out of our IPs. Second is trafficking in person, they trafficked our IP communities from their ancestral lands to areas like Surigao, Bicol, Manila, Davao City, and they made them perform acts against their will,” he said.
The NTF-ELCAC had crossed swords with leftist party-list groups like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, ACT-Teachers, which the government has accused of serving the interests of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The leftist lawmakers succeeded in scuttling the House committee hearing on the budget for the Presidential Communications Operations Office after slamming one of its officers, Usec. Lorraine Badoy, for red-tagging them.
For his part, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that Badoy was only trying to create noise to keep their attention away from what he termed “generals’ pork” in the proposed P16.44 budget of the NTF-ELCAC.
“Hers is a farcical dare and a classic fascist trick of placing the burden instead to us whom she publicly accused of being terrorists to prove our innocence,” he said, as he challenged the official to put her accusations under oath.
Bosantog was present during a press conference at Bagani Hall, Regional Police Office XI with, Usec. Lorraine Badoy, the NTF ELCAC Spokesperson, Brig Gen. Filmore Escobal Regional Director, Regional Police Office XI, Let Gen Jose Faustino Jr. Eastern Mindanao Commander, Maj Gen. Reuben Basiao, commander of 10th Infantry Division And Atty. Nicole Batingana, regional legal officer of the NCIP XI.