Indigenous People’s (IP) leaders trooped to the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York City to break their silence on the atrocities of the Communist party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA) and calls for the end of communist armed conflict in the Philippines.
Some of the Filipino tribal leaders who were once part of the armed rebellion said that they became first-hand witnesses of the oppression and deception.
Apart from killing thousands of traditional leaders who oppose their ideology and replacing them with revolutionary chieftains, they also systematically deceived the indigenous people, said Datu Ramon Bayaan during the conference.
Datu Awing Maraan Apuga, on the other hand, said he was trained to become a child warrior by the CPP-NPA.
“While they were teaching me how to read and write, they would teach me how to handle guns, how to target enemies if a fight ensues,” he said.
The IP’s leaders, who have been getting death threats and harassments expressed their commitment to continue the fight that they have started.
The tribal leaders are making their way across the United States — from New York to Chicago, California and Washington DC — to call on the international community to hear their plight back home.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the Tribal community leaders have gained support from Filipinos who are living the US.
Patriotic Filipinos President Joel Innocencio said that while it was not the first time he heard about the stories of the IP leaders, he was not surprised that the people who attended reacted the way he did the first time he heard them.
“The problem of the IPs is not theirs alone, its a problem of all Filipinos. Whatever happens in their ancestral domains affects peace and order, and it has a domino effect,” Inocencio said.
New York-based Filipina Juliet Payabyab said she felt surprised after hearing the IP leaders’ challenges in fighting the armed insurgency movement in their ancestral domains.
“They are the ones experiencing it. Personally, now I understand. The audience, the community here, they are interested because we only see them in the newspaper,” Payabyab said.
Raphael Emperado, on the other hand, vowed to help rally the Filipino community in New York to listen to the stories of the IP leaders.
“We will help disseminate the story of our IP leaders. It’s important for our countrymen here to know about their stories,” he said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, for her part, called on the Filipino communities here to take an active role in voicing out the true stories back home.
“Check your sources, educate yourselves. It just hurts too much to hear these ignorances,” she said. “The time of the CPP-NPA has come. Let’s help our IP leaders’ stories be heard,” she added.