A day of reckoning might finally come for Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison after 31 indigenous peoples (IP) representing various tribes from Mindanao received a nod of approval from President Rodrigo Duterte for legal assistance and the filing of charges against the exiled communist leader.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. confirmed the President has already acceded to the Lumad’s request for legal assistance during their roundtable huddle at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on Thursday night.
The complainants represent the Subanen, Obu-Manuvu, Bagobo-claka, Mandaya, Higaonon, Manobo-talaandig, Blaan and Tboli tribes from Regions 9 to 13.
They met with Duterte and some members of his Cabinet’s security cluster to hand over four resolutions, including one seeking aid in filing cases against the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front and Sison.
“As a basis for filing charges, the President has already approved it,” Esperon replied when asked about Duterte’s initial take on the resolution.
The document contains 17 “atrocities and violations” against the IPs committed by the Reds, including killing of IP leaders, torture, trespassing of their ancestral domain and recruiting young Lumads to join their movement.
Esperon added that the government, with the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), will step up its health, education, basic services and livelihood programs to alleviate the living conditions of the indigenous groups and ensure their safety against various threats.
“But before we could do that, we must first regain the land, seized by the communists and we will need the AFP and PNP forces there to work together with the Lumads because they have their own way of securing themselves. We will just intensify that,” he said.
Datu Joel Unad, a representative of the IP’s council of elders, said since 1980, around 2,000 IP leaders have either been harassed or killed by the NPA in Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Surigao, Bukidnon and Davao.
“Agusan del Norte, Surigao, Bukidnon, Davao, no Christian is being killed there,” Unad said.
The IP council also accused the communists of “supplanting” their traditional elders and substituting them with revolutionary ones to be able to grab their ancestral domains and convert them to guerrilla bases.
This developed as President Duterte commended the AFP and PNP on the arrest of NDF leader Vicente Ladlad the other day.
“It was for the combined efforts of the Armed Forces and the PNP to catch Ladlad, who is the chairman of the National United Front Commission,” Esperon Jr. said.
Ladlad was apprehended with two other cohorts, Alberto and Virginia Villamo, early Thursday morning by joint military and police operatives in Quezon City.
Recovered from them were an AK47 with bayonet, an M16A1 assault rifle, two cal. 45 pistols, a 9mm pistol, several loaded magazines and four grenades.
Subversive documents were also recovered from them.
No one is above the law
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the recent arrest of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Vic Ladlad only proves that no one is above the law.
“Finally, the long arm of the law has caught up with Mr. Ladlad. He has been avoiding incarceration by claiming that he is a peace consultant and a JASIG-protected person,” Año said.