THE Duterte government did not use taxpayers’ money for the Europe tour of select members of indigenous communities in the country, a Palace official said Wednesday, October 10.

Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said “zero” budget was spent for at least eight leaders of the indigenous peoples (IPs) who went to Europe on September 10 to October 3.

Badoy said the government only released funds for some members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) who flew to Europe to raise awareness about the supposed funding of European Union to Philippine organizations that have links to the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed wing, the New People’s Army.

She, however, could not provide estimates of the total amount spent for NTF ELCAC’s overseas trip.

“For us, we went there to engage, I think five to seven countries, our counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and members of the Parliament to also tell them about the funding of terrorism in our country via NGOs (non-government organizations) that are CPP-NPA led,” she said.

“And we gave them a list. They were very grateful and cooperative,” she added.

Datu Malapandaw Nestor Apas, chief of Langilan Manobo tribe of Davao del Norte, backed Badoy’s statement, as he stressed that the IPs had never received government’s assistance for their foreign tour.

He noted that the IP communities took two years to raise P1.1 million for their scheduled trip to Europe this year.

Apas also bared that two businessmen who experienced the ill-effects of insurgency in the southern Philippines were among their financiers.

He, however, refused to divulge their identities for their safety.

“Dalawang taong pinaghandaan ito (Our preparations took two years),” he told reporters, as he joined Badoy at the press conference.

“Ang naipon namin ng dalawang taon is P1.1 million, sir. Sa loob ng dalawang taon. May naawa sa amin para malaman ninyo, na dalawang negosyante na laging sinusunog ang mga equipment nila (We earned P1.1 million for two years. It took us two years. There were two businessmen, victims of communists’ arson, who expressed sympathies to us),” the tribal leader added.

Select IP members spent less than a month in Europe for “Europe Truth Caravan” against the CPP-NPA.

They were Apas; Datu Panuliman James Binayao of the Manobo-Talaandif Tribe of Maramag, Bukidnon; Datu Awing Apuga of the Ata Manobo Tribe; Bae Chiary Balinan of the Ata Tribe in Paquibato; Bae Magdalina Iligan of the Mananwa Tribe; Bar Anna Jessamae Crisostomo of the Ovu Manuvu Tribe; and Datu Langilan Asenad Bago and Datu Joel Dahusay of Matigtalomo Tribe in Davao de Norte.

During their trip, the eight interacted with the Filipino community and foreign government officials, and attended a meeting at the United Nations in Geneva.

Badoy said the government had to extend assistance to IPs, after President Rodrigo Duterte learned that “60 to 90 percent of NPAs came from the IP sector.”

“We got to support them. It's the job of the government to support a sector that's been forgotten. They've been abused and neglected,” the Palace official said.

”And as we went along with this work, we unearthed a lot of horrible and horrific stories of exploitation, abuse, massacres, murders, plunder of the CPP-NPA of one of the most vulnerable sectors in our society, the IP sector,” she added. (SunStar Philippines)