By Armando Fenequito Jr.
DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to arm indigenous peoples (IP) so that they can defend their ancestral domain against attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
In his speech during the Barangay Summit on Good Governance in Region 11, Duterte asked the IP leaders to create protected areas within the ancestral land of every tribe and they will be given firearms for their protection against rebels.
“I will recognize you as a Cafgu,” he said, referring to the Citizen Armed Force Geographic Unit, the auxiliary civilian force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Duterte said members of the tribes will be enlisted as “civilian active auxiliary” and will undergo training on the proper handling of firearms.
The president said the tribes in the hinterlands are the common victims of attacks by members of the NPA especially if they cannot get favors from them.
He said aside from arming the tribes, he will also give assistance to till their ancestral land for their livelihood.”Akoy mo sustener sa inyoha, pamugas og tagaan ta mo’g tractor (I will be providing your food and I will also give you tractors),” he said.
Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL) chairperson Datu Joel Unad lauded the plan of Duterte for the tribes.
Unad said he would agree on the president’s condition for a training so that every tribe will be aware on the reason why they are being armed. “Walay problema nga armasan basta ma regulate lang ang pagka armado (There is no problem to arm the tribes but it should be regulated),” he said.
He said he also wants to be included in their training the traditional and cultural way of negotiating with their enemies because some of the rebels are IPs themselves.