MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has vehemently denied reports claiming that its forces are militarizing Lumad communities and trampling on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs).
“These allegations follow the same rhetoric they had in 2015 and covers up the exploitation of the Lumad by left-leaning groups,” AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Friday.
The AFP, he said, has already unmasked this deliberate and orchestrated effort by left-leaning organizations and the New People’s Army (NPA) who encroach on IP communities.
Dubbed as “Taktikang Bakwit”, left-leaning organizations distort the facts and circumstances that force Lumads to evacuate their homes, blaming instead the government’s legitimate peace and security operations, he pointed out.
“The AFP’s presence in IP communities has always been in response to the presence of armed NPAs, as reported by Lumad leaders. It is the NPAs who have militarized these areas by setting up camps and by using Lumad schools for indoctrinating, agitating, and recruiting new cadres,” Arevalo said.
These facts have been corroborated by an Affidavit of Unified Declaration of Tribal Leaders of Talaingod, Davao del Norte that was submitted by Lumad leaders, who condemned the abuses and exploitation committed by left-leaning organizations in the UCCP-Haran incident.
Arevalo said they strongly condemn any action that uses the Lumads for propaganda against the government.
“Rest assured that the AFP will not stop in proactively seeking solutions through continuous dialogues with local leaders, government agencies, and non-government organizations to ensure that the rights of the Lumads are protected from exploitation and violence perpetrated by the NPA and its front organizations,” he added.