DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A military unit in Mindanao has recruited at least 300 Lumad to provide "equal opportunities" to cultural minorities in the country.
Captain Roberto Escalona Jr, acting spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division (ID), said the Lumad trainees were from cultural minorities in the Davao region who will be deployed to the division's 4 brigades.
“This means all cultural minorities have all equal opportunities,” Escalona told Rappler in a text message Thursday night. (INFOGRAPHIC: Who are the Lumad?)
To help facilitate the Lumad's recruitment, the military waived several requirements, including height, age, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Service Aptitude Test (AFPSAT).
They will be enlisted for an initial 3-year duty, and will be re-enlisted for another 3 years if they pass the AFPSAT, said Escalona.
To qualify for re-enlistment and to become part of the regular force, the recruits will have to pass the AFPSAT, he said. “If not, they will be reverted back to civilian,” Ecalona added.
Escalona said the recruitment of Lumad soldiers is part of the AFP’s national program, and not a special recruitment exclusive for minorities.
“They will receive the same training like the regular quota has been receiving. In the military, training is continuous, so they will receive whatever training we will be giving to all our soldiers,” he said.
10th ID spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar, who went on study leave starting September 28, said in an earlier statement that to check the mental and physical fitness of the trainees to join the military, they took a neuropsychological exam and a medical exam, and had an interview.
Batchar had said that the Lumad recruits, a mix of men and women, will undergo a 6-month training in October. They will also be likely assigned to their home areas, he added.
Asked whether the Lumad were recruited to help the military in its anti-insurgency campaign, Escalona said on Friday, September 29: "This is part of the national program, not only for the anti-insurgency campaign but the function of the army as a whole. This includes the boosting of disaster relief operations, humanitarian efforts, combating terrorism and other lawless armed groups and peace spoilers, and other functions of the army."
The 10th ID had earlier said that the recruitment of Lumad would keep them from joining the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The area of responsibility of the 10th Infantry Division, also called the Agila Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, includes the Davao region and parts of Region 12.
On September 21, the 10th ID overran a camp of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Compostela Valley following an armed encounter with around 50 rebels.
The move to recruit Lumad to the Philippine Army comes after President Rodrigo Duterte made pronouncements against the indigenous people over their supposed links to communists.
Duterte had called himself a champion of the Lumad in Mindanao before he ran for president, but during his presidency, he had threatened to bomb community schools ran by the Lumad who, he alleged, spread the communist ideology among students. (RAPPLER TALK: The love-hate relationship between Duterte and the Lumad) – Rappler.com