DAVAO CITY — Tribal leaders from all over Mindanao have sought the military’s help in seeking justice for alleged alleged abuses committed by communist rebels in their communities.
On Thursday, 58 tribal leaders attending the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development passed a resolution asking Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon to help them bring the abuses to the attention of the Supreme Court which recently organized a multi-sectoral conference aimed at finding solutions to the continuing political killings and disappearances of militants.
The tribal leaders said the abuses committed by the New People’s Army have been going on for decades now but justice remains elusive for the victims.
“We seek the assistance of the AFP leadership to intercede for IP’s in Mindanao to bring to the attention of the Supreme Court to investigate and to give justice to the violations of IP rights caused by the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines- New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front)” the resolution read.
The resolution did not specify any of the alleged abuses but the tribal leaders presented documents, including police blotter excerpts, to back up their call.
Rosela Ayap, 18, a Manobo girl from Sitio Rano in Barangay Binaton, Digos, Davao Del Sur, said village elders often tell her she was one of the survivors of the infamous 1989 Rano massacre. She was then two-months old, she said.
At least 38 people, including her mother, were killed when NPA rebels stormed a church in the village.
“My mother hid me under her dress before she was shot dead,” Ayap quoted relatives as saying.
Esperon, who was named honorary datu during the conference, vowed to help the tribal or lumad communities.
But while he supports an investigation of alleged atrocities committed by communist rebels, Esperon said his position on the need for the resumption of the peace talks with the insurgents remained the same.
“We have done that with the MILF, what’s so different with the NPA? The military is not just for war. It is important that we go for peace,” Esperon said