DAVAO CITY – A tribal alliance here said the renewed recruitment of tribesmen into the government military was not new and may be a ploy to allow the entry of large mining and logging operations in ancestral domains.
“They have been wanting to organize a lumad battalion as a form of divide-and-rule tactic in the communities,” said Dulphing Ogan, spokesperson of Mindanao tribal alliance called Kalumaran.
“We know that a lot of lumads oppose mining projects,” Ogan said.
Lt. Col. Llewellyn Binasoy of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division announced recently that they would now include members of the tribes in recruiting new soldiers citing the tribe’s “better understanding of their own tribe and are culturally-sensitive”.
“They know the culture, the language, sila yung magiging lead natin in our conduct for peace and development (They will be our lead in our conduct for peace and development),” Col. Benjamin Madrigal of the 701st Infantry Brigade said.
Binasoy said the idea to recruit tribal members was also “the desire of the tribal communities in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte,” scene of recent fighting between soldiers and the New People’s Army guerrillas.
But Ogan said the Army will only “use the lumads for its anti-insurgency campaign and environmental destruction.”
“This deceives the lumads by offering them jobs but little by little they are encroaching IP territories,” Ogan said.
“For the soldiers of the IP sector, they will be recruited and they will be trained and after that, the qualified (trainees) will be deployed in the areas of their ancestral domain,” Binasoy said. He added that it was the communities who wanted to strengthen their community defense.
Regional director of the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) region 11 Geroncio R. Aguio said the recruitment of IPs into the military is not prohibited “so long as there is no coercion and deception.”
“If it is based on free will, there’s no problem,” Aguio said.
But Ogan said the act of recruiting the lumads to military force creates a “wrong perception” for the lumads.
“Young IP children will lose their ancestral land if big corporations enter the ancestral domains. Where is the protection for the lumads?” Ogan asked.