NOW that the APEC Summit is over, let’s pay attention to serious problems–like that of how the military and the Aquino government are treating our Lumad brethren and fellow Filipinos.
We have used for our Sunday Read column the message Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Cardoinal Tagle issued on November 10 because it is a just and stirring call to help sustain and protect our Lumad fellow Filipinos.
The Lumads of Mindanao are the most oppressed. Although the ones of the Cordilleras and people in Southern Tagalog are also badly treated.
The widespread militarization in rural communities – which, counter to claims of peace and development in the areas– have only caused more deaths and injuries to the Lumads and drove them deeper into poverty and homelessness.
Jumorito Guaynon, spokesperson of this year’s Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, has narrated how both the peoples of Southern Tagalog and Mindanao have experienced plain warmongering from these military groups. The Lianga massacre last October 1, in which Lumad leaders and educators were killed, is only one example of how militarization prevents the education and social development of the Lumad.
An important educational project, that of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy in Brgy. White Culaman in Bukidnon, has been demolished or threatened to be demolished.
Goaynon who is of the Higaonon tribe of Misamis Oriental says, “It seems that [the government’s Oplan Bayanihan seemingly defeats its self-proclaimed development thrust by examples of destruction of community efforts such as schools and organizations. BS Aquino’s highly-touted program has spattered innocent blood.”
“We are not really alone in calling against the plunder of our lands and death of our people. The sheer support those we met and enjoined with as we pushed through is really heart-warming, but, moreover, gives us higher resolve to carry on,” Goaynon said.
Diana de Chavez of BIGKISAN Southern Tagalog, a unity of people’s organizations in the region, said that the struggles in Southern Tagalog and Mindanao had been similar – the people in both places are victims of widespread plunder of resources and both are a hotbed of atrocities committed by the state’s military and paramilitary.
“Last year, more than 70 combat battalions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were stationed in the two locations combined, which was almost 70-80% of the armed strength of the AFP. Figures were not expected to dwindle for this year, as, according to de Chavez, human rights violations escalated in the two places.”
Cardinal Tagle’s 3 calls
Let’s demand that the following plea made by Cardinal Tagle be granted by the Aquino governmnent:
“First, we call on the leaders of government: allow peace to reign. This would mean the removal of military forces in the areas settled in by our indigenous brothers and sisters. Likewise, they should disband and disarm all para-military groups. We call on the military and the NDF to declare as “peace zones” these areas of the indigenous people.
“Second, we seek assistance for the our Lumad brothers and sisters who have been forced to evacuate their homes, barangays and towns and are now in “evacuation areas.” They are in most need of food, water, medical attention and medicines, and of our understanding and compassion. Let us help them. Let us try to do everything we can to enable them to return to their land and home and to live there freely, peacefully and securely.
“Third, we ask that justice prevail and that all those who are responsible for the deaths of Lumad leaders and other indigenous persons be held criminally liable.”