By Rom Dulfo
CHICAGO, Illinois — They say teaching is the noblest profession, but indigenous people’s (IP) leader Joel Dahusay went beyond proving that mantra — he risked his life to defend his students from people seeking to craft a movement advocating violence.
Immediately after graduating from college, Dahusay, a member of the Matigtalomo – Manobo Tribe, returned to his community to teach the youth and instill in them the value of education.
But he had no clue that his way of giving back to the community meant bracing for a tough enemy and exposing himself to danger in the process.
“Hindi ko alam na yung komunidad namin, sinasakop na ng mga komunistang terorista. Pinipigilan na nila lahat ng development na galing sa gobyerno. Kaya makikita mo, yung IP communities wala talagang improvement (I didn’t know that communist terrorists were already encroaching on our areas. They were hindering development programs provided by the government. That’s why you see, no improvements are seen in IP communities),” Dahusay said in an inteview.
It was not just his role, he said, but his responsibility, to educate disadvantaged members of his tribe and help build a better future for them.
“Nakita ko na dun sa mga remote areas, parang yung mga bahay kalat kalat, pero nag-effort kami na itipon yung mga bata para ma-edukar (I noticed that in the remote areas, houses are far from each other, but we took the effort to organize them so they can be educated),” he said.
But the guerilla warfare, he said, kept tribespeople divided — young people were indoctrinated of the communist ideology, recruited to join the armed struggle, and transformed them into warriors.
Disguised as teachers
Dahusay said members of the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP), kept pouring into the countryside, some of them disguised as teachers, educating children to rally against the government.
He said the Salugpungan school, for one, is a huge institution run by leftist groups in Southern Mindanao that teach children for free — but comes with a hefty price.
“Yung objective nila, i-brainwash yung mga bata sa ideolohiya ng communist terrorist. Ayaw ng mga NPA na mag-enrol ang mga bata sa ibang eskwelahan, dapat sa Salugpungan lang. (Its objective is to brainwash children in the communist terrorist ideology. NPA members don’t want the children to enrol in other schools, only in the Salugpungan),” he said.
In 2012, Dahusay said when he was absorbed by the local government unit in Davao del Norte as a day care teacher, leftist groups harassed him for supposedly “taking sides.”
“Dinakip ako ng kaliwa, inimbestigahan ako. Sabi nila, saan ka ba panig, sa gobyerno o sa kaliwa? Sabi ko hindi ako pwedeng pumanig, kasi teacher ako, neutral ako. (The Left arrested and investigated me. They asked me, where does your loyalty lie, to the Left or the government? I told them, ‘I cannot take sides, I’m a teacher, I should be neutral),” he said.
Dahusay said members of the NPA harassed parents who would choose to enroll their children in schools operated by the government, killing some of them who would resist their order.
Braving intimidations posed by the armed group, Dahusay stood up and questioned the “huge difference” in the curriculum imposed by the Salugpungan school to that of the Department of Education.
“Lahat ng nakita ko du’n against sa government. Sasabihin nila, against sila sa illegal logging, sa mining, pero kung tutuusin, sila ang may pinakamalaki ang collection sa mga mining companies (I saw them educate children of anti-government teachings. They would pretend to be against illegal logging and mining, but if you look into it, they are the biggest collectors from mining companies),” he said.
The collected money, he said, is used by the armed group to further their campaign such as launching attacks against government troops while expanding their “schools of deception.”
The NPA, he said, targets businessmen, politicians, mining and logging firms, and even store owners in their extortion activities.
Given the series of harassments posed by the communist rebels, Dahusay still chose to resist, saying working in a climate of fear will not prevent him from “letting the truth out” and making the perpetrators of turning children into warriors accountable of their actions.
“Pitong beses na akong tinambangan ng NPA. Pero nandito pa rin ako. Siguro may plano ang Ginoo (Members of the NPA attempted to kill me seven times. But I’m still here. Maybe God has a purpose),” he said.
Dahusay now joins other tribal chieftains in voicing out the atrocities of communist terrorist groups in the Philippines.
He is among the eight tribal leaders who are making their way across the United States to rally the international community to help end the armed insurgency movement’s narratives.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Dahusay said he would risk life and limb to defend his students from oppressors in his community, saying there is no bigger heartache for a teacher than seeing the future of his students stolen from them. (PNA)