Lumads to AFP, NPA: Leave us alone
Alexis Romero ( - October 30, 2015 - 5:06am

MANILA, Philippines — A group claiming to represent 33 lumad (indigenous people) tribes in Mindanao on Friday urged the military and the rebel group New People's Army (NPA) to stop dragging them into their conflict and to respect their human rights and ancestral domain.

Jimid Mansayagan, a datu of the Aromanon Manobo tribe and a member of Lumad Mindanao, said indigenous peoples have suffered because of the clashes and the propaganda war between the armed forces and communist rebels.

"We are being used in a conflict that we do not know about," Mansayagan said in a press conference on Friday in Quezon City.

"We would like to inform the public about our plight. The system of divide and rule is being used not just by the military and the NPA but also by miners and local politicians. We are being treated as give-away’s," he added.

Mansayagan said the human rights of lumads are being violated because of the clashes. He said indigenous peoples are being labeled as "NPA member" or "military informant."

"Leave us alone. Do not use us in your (military and rebels) propaganda," he said.

"Both sides are committing abuses. We are not siding with anyone."

Mansayagan lamented that lumads are being manipulated in their own land.

"We are the owner of the house. We have visitors. Now the visitors are acting as if they are the owner of the house," he said.

"First you discriminate against us. Then you destroy us without killing us."

Fr. Albert Alejo, a Jesuit priest who advocates lumad rights, confirmed that indigenous peoples have been recruited by both the NPA and the military as combatants. He said lumads are being tapped as combatants because of their knowledge of the terrain.

"We should just let their culture and political structure flourish. The military and the NPA should not kill or recruit them."

Despite allegations that soldiers and paramilitary groups are killing lumads as part of the anti-insurgency drive, Mansayagan is not in favor of calls to pull out government troops in Mindanao.

"Our ancestral domain is part of the Philippine territory so the government has the right to put them there," he said, adding that he has observed positive changes in the military after the Marcos dictatorship.

Activists have accused the armed forces and paramilitary units of killing lumads believed to be sympathizers of the NPA. The military has denied the allegation and claimed that it was the NPA who are executing lumads who supported the government’s peace and development programs.

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