DAVAO CITY, Oct 30 (PIA) Tribal chairs urged the government to acknowledge the authority of the tribal chiefs to the bagani or tribal warriors who become members of the special Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit.
Datu Ruben Labawan, chair of the Davao City Supreme Council for Peace and Development and representative of the Ata-Manuvu said leaders of different tribes in the city share the same sentiment.
He said based on their indigenous political structure, the warriors are under the operational control of the datus.
Labawan said that since the bagani became members of the government militia, they were placed under the supervision of a military officer.
“We lost control of the bagani based on this set-up,” he said.
Labawan raised this concern during the regional indigenous peoples’ forum before the officers of the Eastern Mindanao Command.
On development issues, he urged government line agencies to assist the indigenous peoples in making requirements like the making of financial plans.
“They must help us in facilitating the issues and guide us in making the needed plans, useful in addressing the concerns of the IPs,” Labawan said.
He stressed that they do not know the procedure in making formal plans by themselves.
Labawan said the IPs still need the presence of government in the countryside.
He said bearing arms among their members will be illegal without the guidance of the military and police.
“The government must help us legalize the possession of weapons used in defending ourselves against the threat and intimidation by the insurgents,” Labawan said.
He said the IPs remain apprehensive since the Peace and Development Outreach Program of the military in the countryside only has a duration of six months.
Labawan claimed after six months, the soldiers leave and the rebels return to their communities.
“Only the recognition of our authority over our warriors will give us confidence in leading and protecting ourselves in the countryside in asserting our ancestral domain claim,” he said.
Leaders from the different IP groups aired their plight during a consultation with line agencies under the Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies and the military and police in Davao Region.
Lt. General Aurelio Baladad, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command explained the PDOP is not solely the responsibility of the soldiers.
He said before the soldiers leave the community, leaders and people in the area have been linked already with other government line agencies in order for development works to continue.
“Around three to six months, the PDOP teams stay with the communities where we link them up with other government line agencies and institutions with corporate social responsibility which can also extend assistance,” Baladad said.
On the operational control of the bagani turned members of the special government militia, he explained that under the current structure, members of the special Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit have a contract and they consequently need must be a legal entity, and take guidance from an officer of government forces.
Baladad expressed willingness to listen to the sentiments of the IP leaders on this issue. He said peace is critical for development and the baganis can help for peace to prosper.
Baladad stressed that when they become special CAFGUs, the structure calls for them to be under the command of the government.
“With their proper training specifically on human rights, rule of law and international humanitarian law, then the more that there will be investors’ confidence because we can poster peace and invite development,” he said. (PIA 11-Joey Sem G. Dalumpines)