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Get military off indigenous land

MANILA (SE): In the wake of a series of murders and executions of leaders of tribal communities in the southern island of Mindanao in The Philippines by the military and military created paramilitary forces, Luis Cardinal Tagle has called for the creation of peace zones on land belonging to indigenous peoples.

The cardinal wants a complete withdrawal of all government forces, as well as the forces of the Communist New People’s Army.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas added that the indigenous peoples are caught in an ideological crossfire, as the New People’s Army moves among the people in recruitment and training drives and the military moves in to stop them.

Archbishop Villegas also called on the indigenous people themselves to look at their situation more carefully and discern exactly who is trying to help and who is trying to take advantage of them.

Since October 27, hundreds of indigenous people have been encamped in Manila near the spot where the Asia Pacific Economic Summit is scheduled to be hosted by the Philippine government.

The people say that they are determined to show their plight to the leaders of other Asian nations when they arrive at the meeting in an attempt to garner wider international support for their cause.

Cardinal Tagle said that attaining peace on indigenous land means pulling out government military forces completely and dismantling the paramilitary forces, which recruit civilians and arm them to resist the incursion of elements of the New People’s Army in local communities.

Many of them have become little more than bloodthirsty bandits on murderous rampages through the countryside.

On November 12, gunmen, believed to be members of the Armed Forces of The Philippines attacked and burned the cottage of a teacher in Agusan del Sur.

The human rights group, Karapatan, accused government soldiers of ordering the people to burn down a special school run by the indigenous people themselves as an alternative education system to the regular state-run organisation that their people often cannot get access to, in the village of Padiay.

The school, which had been operating since June 2013, was run by the Alternative Learning Centre for Agriculture and Livelihood Development.

It had been accused by the military of acting as a recruitment centre for the New Peoples’ Army.

“This is the height of impudence,” Christina Palabay, the secretary general of Karapatan said.

Palabay explained that the soldiers had ordered the local people to burn the whole school down, but they refused.

The soldiers then put the teacher’s house to the torch.

She added that instead of pulling soldiers out of the area, the government has given them carte blanche to go on a rampage against people in remote villages.

As a result, the people have been fleeing their homes and thousands are currently living in fear in squalid conditions in evacuation centres and putting pressure on the budgets of the provincial governments and Churches that are trying to feed them


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