By Ces Noble Contributor
After their successful ‘Breaking the Silence Tour in the United States last July 2019, the Mindanao Indigenous People’s tribal leaders have gone to Europe for a similar mission that they have dubbed as ‘Truth Caravan.’
The IP leaders — Datu Panuliman James Binayao of the Manobo-Talaandig Tribe of Maramag, Bukidnon; Datu Awing Apuga of the Ata Manobo tribe; Datu Nestor Apas of the Langilan Tribe; Chiary Balinan of the Ata Tribe in Paquibato; Magdalina Iligan of the Mananwa Tribe; Anna Jessamae Crisostomo of the Ovu Manuvu Tribe; and Datu Langilan Asenad Bago and Datu Joel Dahusay of the Matigtalomo Tribe in Davao del Norte were in Europe for about 21 days.
During their trip, the eight interacted with leaders and members of Filipino community organizations and foreign government officials in Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
The group attended a meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva where they related their experience of atrocities from the NPAs including the killing of several IP leaders.
Datu Nestor Apas, leader of Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL), reported that representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights committed to look into their situation and explore appropriate measures to address their concerns.
Among the priority concerns presented in the UN was the grim exploitation of tribal children recruited to become child warriors. Datu Langilan Asenad Bago reported that during his stay in Salugpongan in Sitio Dolyan of Talaingod, NPA leaders come to show them videos on how to attack military detachments. He also reported the sexual exploitation of children committed by NPA gay members.
Meanwhile, Magdalina Iligan expressed hope that other IPs who have suffered the “violence” of the CPP-NPA, would also be able to visit the United States and Europe to relate their own stories.
In Italy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also expressed support to the cause of the IPs and appreciate the information drive that they are doing worldwide.
The group came home on October 4, and faced the media upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1.