WE ask our readers to support the indigenous Filipinos (our Lumad tribals) who are always victimized by bandits and other lawless elements, including Muslim bands and even the activists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as the national government civilian and military units.
Many officials of the latter are paid supporters of rapacious business, industrial and mining interests whose principal concern is making money, never mind if the human rights and the legal rights of the indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains are trampled upon.
A network of peace advocates has risen to act and express their solidarity with the indigenous peoples, Christian farmers and their families including children, who have traveled all the way from Mindanao to Manila to present their grievances and seek justice from President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Let us pray–and actually raise our voices in support of them and tell the President that he should not be as insensitive as he had been to another group of grievance-presenters who trekked all the way from Mindanao and the Visayas, only to be told by Mr. Aquino: You can afford to travel all the way to Manila from your distant homes, then you must be rich and don’t need our help.
Now famous as the “Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2014,” some 300 protesters representing 18 Lumad tribes from the island once known as our country’s “Land of Promise,” bear with them cries for help to be provided their most needs–FOOD and PEACE.
They arrived in Manila last Friday, November 21, and will stage protest actions at different government agencies until December 12.
Lito Manalili, spokesman of “Kapayapaan – Campaign for Just and Lasting Peace,” called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to listen to the people of Mindanao. “Their issues are a matter of life-and death,” he said.
According to Kapayapaan (Peace), 55 Philippine Army battalions, supported by police and paramilitary forces, are currently deployed in mineral-rich areas in Mindanao. Intensified military operations have resulted in at least 3,000 victims forced to leave their homes. At least 39 Lumad schools have not been spared by soldiers who have encamped in them, terrorizing teachers and children.
Leaders and members of people’s organizations critical of development projects that are virtual acts of aggression against the Lumads in Mindanao are being silenced. Some 83 of them have been killed since July 2010 while 500 have been arrested on trumped-up criminal charges.
“It is ironic that these human rights violations resulted from the Aquino administration’s ‘peace and development’ mantra under the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Manalili said.
Kapayapaan supports the call of Mindanaoans to scrap Oplan Bayanihan, pull out military troops from Lumad communities and resume peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and stop development aggression projects such as large-scale mining in the island.
More than 300,000 hectares in Mindanao are affected by large-scale and destructive mining projects.
“The people of Mindanao continue to suffer from the negative consequences of the armed conflict,” said Manalili. Now more than ever, our demands have never been more just: Resume peace talks. Honor all agreements. Address the roots of the armed conflict.”