By Ben Serrano
The National Democratic Front in Northeastern Mindanao lashed out at President Duterte for urging lumads or indigenous peoples of Caraga Region fighting with the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) to abandon their armed struggle and surrender.
In a statement, Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the NDF-NEMR, said Duterte’s enticement for “lumad” rebels to surrender was meant to sow division, weaken the legitimate struggle of the indigenous people and provoke harassment attacks against them.
“It is a component of the psychological operation of the US-Duterte regime to confuse, divide and pit the lumad people against each other. The resources within the ancestral lands of the lumad people are being targeted by imperialists and local ruling classes,” she said.
“This is the reason why it connives to weaken the legitimate struggle of the indigenous people to defend ancestral lands constantly threatened by extensive land grabbing for large scale mining and plantations.”
Malaya also branded as “deceptive” Duterte’s claims that 75 percent of the rebel cadres in Caraga were lumads who ended up being exploited by the NPAs in the underground movement.
According to Malaya , since the rebel group operates in a large section of the mountains, plains, highways, coastal areas and town centers of Caraga’s five provinces which are sources of Red fighter recruits, the lumads cannot comprise larger number of members for the communist movement.
The lumad “gambit” is a clear perpetuation of the military propaganda and plans under the despised Oplan Bayanihan to brutally attack and destroy unity of IP communities in order to annihilate the NPA and the revolutionary movement, Malaya claimed.
“Thus, he (Duterte) said attention should be given to the IPs to suppress insurgency in Caraga, which continue to be the primary problem of the region. He tried to entice the lumads to surrender with integration into the Philippine Army,” Malaya said.
“If they will succeed it will further result to widespread evacuations like what happened with the Lianga Massacre, last September 1, 2015; indiscriminate bombings near communities and farms, and widespread shooting, killing and arrests of lumad leaders and activists,” she added.
During his visit at an Army camp in Butuan last month, Duterte called on indigenous peoples of Caraga who continue to fight with NPA to return to the fold of the law.
The President said various livelihood and development programs await tribesmen who “surrender peacefully” as he pledged that they will be welcome to join the government’s military or police force.
“They should stop fighting . Lay down your arms and avail of the services offered by the government,” Duterte said.
Young tribesmen were just being lured into the rebel movement because of poverty and lack of opportunities in rural areas, Duterte noted.