IPs should take hold of their destiny

In a forum organized by the Communication Foundation for Asia in Sta. Mesa, Manila on the 23rd of this month, representatives of the indigenous peoples, also known as “lumads”, complained of being caught in the middle during armed confrontations between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces.

Their people especially children, women, and the aged are usually the unwilling victims of this continuing skirmishes. They also disclosed that the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is not satisfactorily protecting and promoting their rights especially over their ancestral domain. At times, the office, they added, is found more on the side of “other people”.

There are more reasons to believe they were telling the truth. It can be seen in their eyes the aura of sincerity. They don’t have heavy reasons not to tell the truth, especially given that two of the discussants are military men, one active and the other already retired.

Indeed, the situation of the IPs is fragile and pitiful! Usually poor, uneducated, and the hinterland, as their habitat, we can only imagine how difficult for them to stay away from harms’ way.  If they stay completely neutral in the NPA-AFP conflict, it is no guarantee that they will not be held suspect by either side. If they side with any of the protagonists, surely they will be considered enemy to the other.

The IPs are now pushed to the wall. They are not amply protected. Worse, their ancestral landholding continues to shrink and shrink in the face of aggression unleashed by unconscionable and greedy carpetbaggers.  If they don’t act correctly and fast now, they will become completely defenceless in the near future. Chances are that they will fight among themselves, because weak people are easily intrigued and manipulated by the strong and moneyed.

This is an unsolicited recommendation. We hope we will not be misunderstood, because in making this overture, we have the best of intention.  Moros fully understand the situation of the IPS, and vice versa. Only the oppressed can understand each other.

The IPs should organize themselves and put up a national or regional movement. Only an organized people can put up a systematic or effective responses to opportunities or threats. We are not saying you arm yourselves and fight the government or any other armed group.  That is completely outside of the point.  Our point is that the government can help you, because it is intended to serve the people, but the same government is peopled by some of those pestering your communities. They are in all types of businesses, plantation economy, in mining, in energy, etc., and many if not most of them care only for their profits. They don’t care about you. The CPP/NPA/NDFP can also help you, in some or many ways, like the MILF, because their agenda is national democratic in character and for all peoples in Mindanao, respectively.  But there is no better and reliable promoter and protector of your interests, limbs, and properties, than you yourselves. You are the ones involved and it is your future that is at stake! Take hold of your destiny! This is best for you!