By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte said he will “hamlet” indigenous peoples (IP) beginning “this year” to protect them from being attacked or influenced by communist guerrillas.
“There is a certain point, but it will be this year. Ako para unahan na nako sila para dili na sila mangimbento (I have to be the one to say this first so that they won’t make up false stories). I will hamlet them. Why? Because if they remain scattered, they are really in danger. I cannot get their loyalty if they are scattered because they are afraid to be far from each other,” Mr. Duterte said in his remarks Tuesday night, Dec. 18, during the Barangay Summit on Good Governance in Davao City.
At the beginning of his speech, he acknowledged the presence of IP leaders in the audience.
Mr. Duterte said these envisioned hamlets are intended to provide a “secure place” for the IP, which they themselves will guard.
“You natives won’t be able to say that you’re being imprisoned. But I will make a secure place for you that will be your territory for the meantime. I will be the one to decide whether you’ll be given arms. No one else will be able to enter. You will be the ones who will guard it.”
He continued, “Nobody else can enter. There will be no other tribe. It’s all for you. But if I say that the Matigsalug (an IP group) will be here, don’t — I’ll tell the military and police to operate in your area. Guard the place and if you see them, shoot them right away.”
Asked for comment during a Palace briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 19, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo explained: “Perhaps, what he means is that to protect them, to shield them from harassment or from undue influence, from indoctrination coming from the Left, then he will do it for their own good and safety.”
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Spokesperson Jacqueline C. de Guia, sought for comment, told BusinessWorld in a phone message that “hamletting as an approach to public safety may result to a number of human rights violations due to the enforced displacement of communities and individuals.”
“Such proposal challenges the people’s constitutional right to liberty and property among others and will inevitably disrupt a community’s cultural life. The International Humanitarian Law, including its local iteration Republic Act No. 9851, prohibits arbitrary deportation or forcible transfer of population or unlawful confinement. The Commission on Human Rights urges the government to critically study this proposal and establish a strong need to hamlet indigenous peoples, given that we trust that the security forces are capable of addressing threats to our democracy without infringing human rights, especially of minorities,” she explained.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), meanwhile, said it will issue its position on Thursday.
In a phone interview, Jong Monzon, secretary-general of the Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, said: “Sa usapin ng hamlet ay hindi po kami pabor dyan (We are not in favor of that).”
Mr. Monzon said the military, along with paramilitary groups, have actually long been implementing such scheme through “encampment” in IP communities, the closure of lumad (IP) schools, and blocking the entry of rice supply.
Military officials maintain that lumad schools are being used by the New People’s Army, the armed group of the communist movement, to indoctrinate IP communities.
As for protecting IP communities from members of the NPA, Mr. Monzon said: “Yang sinasabi nyang protektahan ay hindi yan totoo (That protection they are talking about, that is not true).”
He added that if the government really wants to protect IPs, it should provide “sustainable agriculture farm… livelihood,” and stop the closure of schools as well as end military encampments.