DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Leaders of indigenous peoples (IP) in Mindanao were told to prepare to relocate from their communities to temporary shelters which the government will build, along with promises of monthly stipends.
President Rodrigo Duterte said this on Thursday, February 1, at a gathering of hundreds of Lumad across the island region at the headquarters of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City.
“Basta magsugod ta ‘ron, ugma naa ko’y ihatag ninyo. Prepara inyong kaugalingon for relocation,” Duterte said.
(We’ll start now, and tomorrow I have something for you. Prepare yourselves for relocation)
The Lumad will be relocated to temporary shelters that will be modeled after those units the government built in Lanao del Sur for the evacuees from the war-torn Marawi City, the President said.
On top of that, he said, there would be jobs and a weekly stipend at P20,000 which he joked they could use to buy liquor.
The reason why the leaders were told to relocate soon was not elaborated by the President, although he hinted this has something to do with the government’s counter-insurgency efforts.
Duterte on Thursday mentioned his disappointment with the New People’s Army (NPA), whom the military implicated to be behind the beheading of former rebel Mar Acevedo Bocales.
“Unsa’y diperensiya nila sa ISIS?” he lamented. (What makes them different from ISIS?)
Bocales was abducted on January 28 in Surigao del Sur, according to the military.
Following the incident, the NPA clarified they were not responsible for Bocales’ death. Instead, the guerillas passed the blame to another paramilitary group, Mahagat, whom Human Rights Watch in 2015 said was implicated in an attack on a tribal school in the province.
Distance from the NPA
The President also promised the leaders that he would be releasing P100 million to facilitate their relocation, and appealed that they participate with the government instead of the rebels.
“Disassociate yourself with the communist. Wala gyud moy matila bisag unsa, wala moy SSS, wala moy tanan.”
The amount, he said, is to bridge them to “normalcy” while they learn livelihood skills which the TESDA will facilitate, he said.
Duterte had been asking the Lumad to distance themselves from the rebels.
In his State of the Nation Adress last year, he threatened to bomb Lumad schools in the hinterlands, as he said these were teaching children communist ideology, eventually leading them to take arms against the government. – Rappler.com