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On November 29 and 30, 2018, various media entities reported the attempt by the group of Bayan Muna President Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Party-List Representative France Castro to transport fourteen (14) minors out of Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Ocampo’s group was, thereafter, arrested and charged with human trafficking, kidnapping and child abuse. Ocampo’s group claims that it only conducted a National Solidarity Mission and to rescue children from alleged harassment of a paramilitary group Alamara which is closing down the Salugpungan School in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. However, leaders and members of the Ata-Manobo Indigenous Cultural Communities / Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) in Talaingod town tell a different story. Bae Pilar Libayao of the Municipal Tribal Office (MTO) of Talaingod, questions the taking of their children when there is no conflict happening in their place. She goes further by saying that it is the non-government organizations (NGOs) that bring conflict to their community because the teachers do not teach anything except to fight the government. The spokesperson of the Talaingod Tribal Council of Elders, Datu Lumansad Sibogan, confirms Libayao’s statements saying the NGOs did not obtain the consent of the community relative to the transport of their children. He cited parents looking for their children and finding them among those found at the checkpoint. He also said he previously witnessed NPA commanders visiting the schools and being welcomed by Salugpungan teachers, and also saw the students being taught how to dismantle firearms. Totoy Loyod of the same barangay said that no permission was obtained by Ocampo’s group from him for the transport of his daughter Jonelyn. Loyod went to Sitio Dulyan to fetch her daughter but was told by the teachers that they will bring her daughter to UCCP Davao to participate in a mass rally. In the first place, the Salugpungan Schools did not secure the Free and Prior Informed Consent of the ICC/IP community in putting up the schools, as required by law. On the other hand, the Ata-Manobo Municipal Tribal Council of Elders led by Datu Gibang Apuga issued a resolution asking for the closure of the said schools for, among other reasons, failure to secure consent, misrepresentation to the parents and students of its nature, teachings of hatred against the government instead of academic lessons, and lack of respect of the tribal leadership and customary laws. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) STRONGLY CONDEMNS this acts of transporting minors without the consent of their parents, utter disregard of the right of Ata-Manobo ICCs/IPs of Talaingod, Davao del Norte to their free and prior informed consent, manipulations and misrepresentation as to the true intent
of the schools, and the sheer lack of recognition of community authority and customary laws; We CONDEMN any activity of any group that takes advantage of the indigenous peoples to advance their own agenda; We LAUD all involved national and local authorities for their quick action and efforts to stop the attempt to transport the 14 minors; Likewise, We express our STRONG SUPPORT to IP leaders/ elders in Talaingod led by BAE PILAR LIBAYAO, DATU GUIBANG APUGA and DATU LUMANSAD SIBOGAN and other IP leaders for bravely standing up to protect the rights of ICCs/IPs especially the young indigenous peoples; and Finally, We CALL on everyone (1) to listen to the voice of the indigenous peoples, (2) to recognize and respect their rights to self-determination and their right to free and prior informed consent (FPIC) in particular, (3) to respect the IPs’ customary laws; and (4) to recognize and respect the indigenous political structures within the ancestral domains.
03 December 2018, Quezon City, Philippines.