Bae Bibyaon's kin denies coercion of AFP, DavNor execs

By Che Palicte / Philippine News Agency

Screengrab photo of Bae Bibyaon's relatives during a virtual press briefing held Tuesday (Sept. 28).

DAVAO CITY – Relatives of tribal leader Bae Bibyaon from Talaingod, Davao del Norte refuted the allegation of the Save our Schools (SOS) Network that the military and local officials in Davao del Norte have coerced them into signing documents asking her to return to her hometown.


At a virtual press briefing Tuesday, the relatives said they were genuinely calling for her safe return and urged the SOS Network to stop taking advantage of the indigenous peoples’ (IP) leader.


Bibyaon, 94, who is currently staying at the SOS Network headquarters based in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, said in the online news conference on Monday that the military and local officials were opposed to her decision to stay in UP Diliman.


However, her relatives are not convinced that Bibyaon was telling the truth.


Datu Benito Bigkay, her nephew, said they were not coerced by anybody and - to prove their family's claims - said that the Manobo tribe has even crafted a resolution expressing its profound desire for her to come home.


“The issue is not true and we are not forced to sign any documents. All we wanted is for her to come home,” he said in the vernacular.


Bigkay said that they voluntarily sought the help of Bae Pilar Libayao, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Talaingod town.


“It is our own will and we do it whole-heartedly because we missed her so much and our heart bleeds for her because we know what she is going through,” he added.


Meanwhile, Bae Annabelle Bigkay, the niece of Bibyaon, became emotional as she recounted how she missed her aunt.


“When my father died, she did not show up. They did not allow her. They deprive her of her right to pay respect for his brother,” she said in the vernacular.


Bae Pilar, on the other hand, said after Bibyaon's relatives approached her, she immediately reached out to the government to relay their concern.


“She was used as a decoy to get the fund for the New People’s Army (NPA) and its front organizations. We asked the government to help us. Matanda na si Bibyaon bakit kailangan pa nila gamitin? They instill lies in her. Stop using the IPs for your benefit,” she added.


Talaingod town Mayor Jonnie Libayao, through a video message, also begged for Bibyaon’s safe homecoming and spoke against the exploitation of indigenous peoples (IPs).


“Whoever is holding Bibyaon, please have mercy and send her home because she is old and pitiful. As mayor, I call on you to help us get Bibyaon home. Please stop using the tribe and do not take advantage of the weaknesses of our IPs,” he added.


Truth about Bibyaon


Despite Bibyaon's claim that she was not interested to come home, Rurelyn Bay-ao, coordinator of Sabokahan, believed otherwise. Bay-ao recounted that she had been with Bibyaon since 2014 and joined the Lakbayan in 2015.


Bay-ao denied that Bibyaon doesn’t want to come home, insisting that the reason the SOS Network would not let her go was that the tribal leader was an asset for the group's funding.


“I am a living witness to how they teach her to tell lies, especially when being interviewed by the media. I am her translator and what Bai wants is only to protect the ancestral land and the Pantaron Range. SOS used her to entice more IPs and eventually get sympathy from the international funder,” she said.


Bay-ao recalled that during trips in Thailand, Hongkong, and Korea where they met with funders of the front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA, she vividly recalled that Bibyaon used her thumbmark to close the deal.


“They don’t want her to go home because they wanted to use and exploit her further,” she added.


To prove that Bibyaon really wanted to come home, Bay-ao showed a bag owned by the tribal leader asking them to bring it to Talaingod and told them not to open it until her return.


“That time, she is already infected with coronavirus disease, she cried and wanted to go home. Ruis Valle [spokesperson of the SOS Network], along with other staff only laughed at her. They will not let her go because Bae can still gather huge money for their organization,” Bay-ao added.


The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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