Correspondence AFP's enslavement of "surrendered" Agtas

This article is available in PilipinoBisayaHiligaynon

Moana, an indigenous Agta, was a civilian when her own uncle “betrayed” her to the 95th IB in exchange for a ₱2,000 reward. She was declared a “surrenderee” and made to “report” to the military camp along with others. There she experienced abominable treatment together with her fellow Agtas.

“The soldiers treated us like slaves,” narrated Moana. They were forced to carry supplies and work in fields. They were deprived of food when unable to work and when provided, receive very little. “Just a handful,” she said.

Moana felt gravely sorry for her fellow Agtas especially for a mother with a small child. She kept her meager food ration to give to the baby and other children kept hostage inside the camp.
There is a school inside the camp but rarely is there a soldier “teacher.” “When present, the teacher acts very hostile,” said Moana. “Children are cursed with bad words.” Because of this, children have no interest in attending this “school”.

“I often dream of a free life in the forest,” she said. But she wakes up in the “housing” provided by the military. “That’s what they call the garbage heap covered by a tent where we are made to sleep in.”

Agtas are also used as human shields in military operations. “They make us ride a truck every time they operate in Isabela,” she said. Agta women are often ordered to go to the market while men are made to serve as guides in combat operations. After these jobs, they are brought back to the camp and kept under strict guard to prevent their escape.

Moana cannot bear the life inside the camp. “A dog’s life is better than our life there,” she said.

One day, she was ordered to go the market with her cousin. When soldiers were not looking, they picked up hats and put on clothes and ran away. They jumped into the river to escape the soldiers guarding them. “We almost got caught!” she exclaimed.

In the forest, they met another group of soldiers who were gathering rattan. “Fortunately, their Agta guide pretended not to know us,” she said. “I know that he was only forced to act as a guide because the soldiers threatened his family.”

After months of hiding, Moana was tracked down by her kin who was a Red fighter. She was placed under the care of an NPA unit in Isabela to protect her from soldiers hunting for her. Having experienced severe exploitation, it is clear to Moana why it is necessary to stand up and fight against the deceptive program of the reactionary government such as the military’s forced surrender program.

While in the unit, she felt the respect of comrades and the freedom that was taken away from her by the fascist soldiers. Soon, Moana expressed her desire to become a full-time member of the people’s army.

The forced “surrender” of civilians and their detention and enslavement in military camps is a serious violation of the international rules of war. It is also illegal to force them to get involved in armed operations that endanger their lives in the event of a battle. Double protection should be accorded to women and children in areas of armed conflict.

Moana and Agtas like her are aware of the national oppression and neglect by the reactionary state. They are also aware of the rich history of the revolutionary movement’s solidarity with national minorities like them in protecting the environment and the forests that form part of their lives. Compared to other armed groups, only the people’s army strives to drive out destructive and plunderous government and foreign businesses’ mining and logging projects in the Sierra Madre mountains. This is main reason why minorities easily understand and embrace the people’s war.

Ka Moana and many other comrades who come from national minority groups, know that only by participating in the national-democratic revolution will their democratic and just interests be attained.

AFP's enslavement of "surrendered" Agtas