Bangibang said all these gains became possible because of the people’s revolutionary efforts which strengthened tribal unity and consolidation, within the framework of the long and arduous struggle for self-determination and national liberation.
“The problem is, militarization is trying to destroy these gains,” Bangibang said.
The successful villages were targeted by soldiers, who put up military detachments. Leaders were then summoned and threatened to stop their activities. The rice cooperatives were branded as “NPA food suppliers,” and its members were harassed and forced to “clear their names.” They were told to surrender to the military and join the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
“Sariling kayod ng mamamayan, naabot nila dahil sa unity, tapos sisirain,” Bangibang lamented.
In both Oplan Bantay Laya and Oplan Bayanihan – the counterinsurgency programs of the Arroyo and Aquino regimes, respectively – indigenous peoples (IP) were targeted as part of the “IP-centric approach.” Bangibang said the military views them as a natural base of strength of revolutionaries, not only because of their mountain homes, but mainly because of their inherent collective spirit.
But even as the revolutionary influence enhanced this unity and even helped remove negative aspects such as tribal wars, the military targeted indigenous people for recruitment as soldiers or paramilitary to sow conflict and break the community, he said.