DAVAO CITY – Some 700 members of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities, government, non- government organizations and other groups on Saturday condemned the “unacceptable activities” of Bayan Muna president and former solon Satur Ocampo and his 18 companions after they were nabbed for allegedly recruiting children to rally against the government.
In a rally held in front of a police station in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, the IPs, led by Datu Guibang Apoga, asked Ocampo and his allies to stop exploiting the lumads, especially the children.
Ocampo and his 18 companions are being detained at the Talaingod Police Station detention facility for violation of the Republic Act 7610, or the act providing special protection against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination, following their arrest at a police checkpoint early this week. They were trying to bring out some 14 Lumad children from Talaingod without any parental consent.
Ocampo and Castro claimed they were in the area “to rescue” children and teachers of the Salugpungan Learning Center following the suppose forcible closure of the school.
Datu Allan Kausing, who is one of the members of the Council of Elders of Talaingod, said they already realized how they are being exploited by the New People’s Army.
Kausing said Salugpungon schools are no longer welcome in their community.
He said 14 Salugpungan schools had been closed after the Council of Elders declared them as persona non grata because these have no prior consent.
Ocampo and his companions, he added, also did not seek permission from the council when they took the Lumad children.
Datu Kausing said seeking a prior consent of the council for any activity inside the ancestral domain is detailed in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
“Sila wala magpahibalo sa tribo. Kana supak sa among balaod (They — Ocampo and companions, did not ask permission. That is a violation of our law),” he said in a phone interview.
A military officer, who requested not to be named, said the rallyists also cried justice for Lumad leaders killed by the NPA.
He said they also want education, but only in a legitimate tribal school education run by the government, and not in the Salugpungan, which is accused of using a different curriculum and promoting the communist doctrine.
In a press statement, Capt. Erick Wynmer Calulot of the Army’s 1003rd Brigade said angry tribal leaders and residents from the municipality condemned the act of Ocampo’s group, demanding that they leave the area and not take their children.
He also recalled the passage of a resolution by the Talaingod municipality, led by Mayor Basilio A Libayao, condemning the left-leaning groups’ activities and presence in their municipality.
Datu Lomansad Sibogan, spokesperson of the Tribal Council of Elders of Talaingod, said Salugpungan is backed by the NPA and left-leaning groups.
Sibogan said he personally saw commanders of NPA being accommodated by teachers of Salugpungan inside its main campus in Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod.
Sibogan and Datu Guibang were once NPA members until they decided to abandon the communist struggle this year.
He recalled witnessing the teaching during night sessions. However, he said, the lessons during daytime sessions are correct.
A young Lumad boy from Central Baugan of Barangay Palma Gil also recounted how his life was ruined by the NPA, and as a student of Salugpungan since he was 14 years old, he was already indoctrinated into the communist struggle.
The rally ended at around 12 noon.