By Mark D. Francisco, Correspondent

Military taps lumad soldiers for education program

Posted on October 21, 2015

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- The Armed Forces of the Philippine’s (AFP) 4th Infantry Division based in Northern Mindanao is tapping 125 soldiers who belong to indigenous peoples (IP) groups for an education program that will be implemented in their home communities.

Capt. Joe Patrick A. Martinez, spokesperson of the AFP division, said the IP or lumad soldiers have been pulled out of their respective bases and are now undergoing training from the Department of Education (DepEd) through the alternative learning system (ALS).

“These soldiers range from privates to sergeants. They will wear their traditional clothing once they will be integrated back to their barangays and they will be unarmed,” Mr. Martinez said in an interview last Monday.

The soldiers, who belong mostly to the Higaonon and Manobo tribes, will be deployed before the end of the year to 35 pilot villages (barangay) where they will organize their respective ALS units.

Reports of human-rights violations, including killings, of various IP groups in different parts of Mindanao have recently brought attention to the plight of the lumad, not a few of them forced to flee their homes and now living in evacuation sites.

The AFP and paramilitary groups have been blamed for the atrocities. The military, on the other hand, blames the communist New People’s Army (NPA) as well as infighting among the IPs.

The military has also accused some IP members of supporting the NPA.

The 4th Infantry Division maintains military jurisdiction in eight provinces: Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Islands.

As this developed, a delegation from the IP advocacy group Kalumbay will arrive in Manila on Monday to join the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015, an annual caravan of IP leaders and supporting non-government groups intended to bring to the capital their concerns.