THE more I hear Lumad stories, the more I study about what’s going on in Mindanao, the more my heart breaks for the nation.
Because while there is a tendency to think that this is an isolated case that has been blown out of proportion by advocates and a “noisy minority” – yes, I have government rhetoric down pat – hearing these stories, or maybe just being open to listening to these stories, makes it difficult to be so dismissive.
In fact to be dismissive is almost to be heartless, if you ask me.
Violence as universal
When you listen to both the people from Mindanao and the Lumad themselves who are at the Lumad Camp (now at Liwasang Bonifacio), there is a sense that they in fact know, too, how unbelievable their stories sound. After all, they are speaking to Filipinos who imagine that the world revolves around Manila, and for whom Mindanao is a far-off land that is strange, and different, and beyond understanding.
Yet one knows that this cannot be an excuse. Shooting a Lumad in the head is exactly the same as shooting any Filipino in a summary execution. The torture and murder of a Lumad is no different from the torture and murder any other Filipino.
Violence and injustice are universal: we know either one to be true because no matter where we are in the country, Lumad or not, we should be able to judge a summary execution for what it is.
But it seems that the success of propaganda against the Lumad is that it has kept even the more intelligent Filipinos from taking on their cause. Government must be patting itself on the back.
Recently, I heard young UP students say that they don’t talk about issues on social media because they are “busy solving the root of the problem.” Maybe that’s what a majority of Filipinos think they are doing when they refuse to take a stand for the Lumad on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
One wonders though if they realize that while they are silent about calling for justice for the Lumad, the violence against the Lumad and their lands continue.
On November 6, news reached the Lumad Camp in Liwasan that their communities in Soccsksargen were being invaded yet again by the military. That is, from 11:00AM to 3:00PM on Friday last week, military were seen entering and taking over Lumad communities.
Government will say that this is for the Lumad’s own protection. Yet only the naïve would believe that these communities are being militarized for the Lumad.
Environmentalism as universal
These communities are being militarized to protect mining and big plantation interests. That the Lumad refuse to give up their land is at the heart of the violence against them.
It surprises me that where environmentalism is something that is a more palatable and sustainable cause for many, not one of the bigger, more mainstream, environmental organizations have taken on the cause of the Lumad.
What we are talking about here are indigenous peoples (IP) lands that are rich in natural and mineral resources. We are talking lands that under the law should be protected from the degradation that large-scale irresponsible mining wreaks. We are talking lands that stand for everything we believe in: the need to take care of the environment, the fact of handing it down to the next generation, the belief in sustainability as far as reaping what we sow in the land.
Large-scale mining and big plantations are already wreaking havoc on the Lumad communities and our environment. Photographs from places like Caraga show the environmental impact of mining, and one need not be an environmental advocate to see that this is an injustice to the Lumad who own those lands, as it is an injustice to all Filipinos who believe in protecting our natural resources.
It surprises me that where notions of organic farming, green living (hello Paolo Abrera! hello Gina Lopez), and healthy lifestyles are so in vogue, faced now with an issue that is larger and infinitely more important, what we get is radio silence.
The violence continues
And this is really the thing: while we fall silent about this injustice, the violence against the environment and the Lumad goes on, and on, and on.
On November 10, news broke of the death of a Lumad, Mankombate Mariano, who went on an annual fruit gathering with 16 others, 12 children included, two of whom were his grandchildren. All from Sitio Balaudo Malaybalay City, the tradition brought them to Dulmatong in Barangay Canangaan in Bukidnon.
As the group approached a durian tree, they heard five gunshots fired. The group ran off leaving behind Mariano and his grandson Dodong (not his real name) who had been wounded. Dodong had a wound on his leg; his grandfather was shot in the chest and hip. Dodong rolled down a hill and hid behind foliage.
He watched as one Manlumakad Bocalas, a member of a paramilitary group Dela Mance, hacked his grandfather with a machete, hitting his head, left shoulder, and left thigh. Dodong tried to flee the scene and was followed by gun shots. His school backpack shielded him and eventually saved his life, despite his gunshot wounds. He walked as far as he could and waited for rescue.
Community leaders would go back to Dumaltong to retrieve the body of Mariano on October 28. They would also find his grandson, weak but alive. (Newsdesk.ph, 10 Nov)
Dela Mance is believed to be a part of a bigger paramilitary group based in Pantaron Range that has taken control of ancestral lands in the area. The Dela Mance Group is no different from the paramilitary groups that have been armed and employed by the military across Mindanao.
They are not there to protect the Lumad and their ancestral lands. They are there in the interest of the mining companies and big plantations that want these lands. And any Lumad who stands in the way, any Lumad who insists on his or her right to these IP lands, is killed.
One cannot believe that so many can dismiss that.