November 26, 2022

A noted non-government organization has joined government and various sectors in conducting dialogues with the community to address issues that continue to create animosity between uniformed men and community members in the region.

Tebteba, an indigenous peoples organization, is participating in the community-based dialogue initiated by the Commission on Human Rights aimed at providing a venue for communities to air their concerns, such as harassment of groups working in the communities and red-tagging.

Tebteba Executive Director and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said her group joined the community-based dialogues to help address the animosity between the communities and State forces who end up throwing accusations against each other.

Included in the initiative is the dialogue between a farmer’s group in Kalinga in November that complained they are being harassed by men in uniform who accuse them of supporting New People Army rebels.

Community-based dialogues have been initiated in other communities in the region, such as villages in Sagada, Mountain Province.

During the dialogues, community residents will air their grievances and concerns about the government, including the military and Philippine National Police, and stakeholders from the government also share their programs that are aimed at helping uplift the lives of people.

“We will witness the dialogue and come up with a resolution to the concerns and look at ways on how the community and state forces can work together to ensure cooperation,” Corpuz said.

She added animosities between State forces and the communities should be resolved through dialogues and not through accusations, which lead to some groups being red-tagged or labeled as members or supporters of NPA rebels.

“Dialogues should be the way to go, instead of throwing accusations and counter-accusation. The only way we can resolve (differences) is to talk to the people in the communities,” she said.

In the government’s whole-of-nation approach, Corpuz said both parties should recognize that the problems the government want to address are the same concerns identified and being addressed by non-government organizations. “The success of community-based dialogues is important in bringing about peace and security in the country,” she said. – Jane B. Cadalig