BUTUAN City – Tribal leaders in the Surigao del Sur town of Lianga challenged on Thursday Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Eufemia Cullamat to help build schools for the indigenous peoples’ (IP) communities.
“This is our challenge to Congresswoman Cullamat as a member of the House Representatives,” Hawudon Jumar Bucales, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview.
Bucales issued the call on Cullamat amid the effort of the government to start the construction of government-run IP schools in the area.
In a separate statement released early this week, Datu Constancio Duhac, the Manobo tribal chieftain of Lianga, pointed out that Cullamat, also of the Manobo tribe, continues to oppose the establishment of government-run IP schools in their villages.
Duhac said he is perplexed that Cullamat "favors the continuing operations" of the controversial schools with alleged links to the communist New People's Army (NPA), referring to the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) and the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS).
The military has long suspected both schools as part of a network run by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA.
“Congresswoman Cullamat has not yet sponsored project for the Manobo tribe in Lianga, not even a school or farm-market road that will connect Manobo communities in Andap Valley to the market centers in the province of Surigao del Sur,” Bucales said.
The IP leaders in the area are urging Cullamat to engage with the legitimate tribal organization in Lianga, and not with the leaders of the leftist IP group Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod MAPASU, whose members are known to have direct links with the CPP-NPA.
They also pointed out that most of the members of the MAPASU council are either siblings or relatives of the lawmaker.
“You must listen to us and adhere to our legitimate IP leadership and should not be biased,” Bucales said.
The two tribal leaders also called on Cullamat to support the government's "whole-of-nation" approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC).
“Join the government in delivering the basic and social services to the conflict-affected communities and file a House resolution to condemn the CPP-NPA for the recent attack they made on civilians in Diatagon,” Bucales said.
Bucales, however, said they are disappointed with Cullamat, alleging that the lawmaker has been lambasting the military and even joined other left-leaning groups to call for a military pullout in IP communities.
“The military protects the tribe from the infiltration of the CPP-NPA, especially the far-flung sitios of Andap Valley in Surigao del Sur,” the tribal leader said. (PNA)
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