IF there is a live and burning issue that must urgently rouse the conscience of the nation and galvanize action by the government, it is the current ordeal of our Lumad (indigenous peoples) communities, whose leaders are being killed one by one by para-military groups, whose lands are being forcibly taken from them by predatory business interests, and whose need for protection and cry for justice are barely being heard by the government.
A crisis of survival
The Lumads are the Philippine equivalent of the native Americans in the United States and Canada, and the aborigines in Australia. They are native to our land, having settled here long before other settlers. They are living today the same crisis of survival that Indians and aborigines experienced in their own histories. They deserve to win the same rights and privileges that the Indians and aborigines have won in their respective countries, and which their fellow Filipinos enjoy in this country.
But unlike the USA’s native Americans who are a small minority, the ancestors of the majority of the Filipinos are the Lumads themselves.
To secure national attention to their plight from the President and Congress, several scores of the Lumads have journeyed to Manila to directly protest the crimes against them and plead their cause. For several weeks now, they have been camping out at Liwasang Bonifacio to talk to those in society who want to know about their protest and want to help them.
For all their efforts, however, their protest action has been barely heard by the executive and legislative branches of our government.
Malacañang, President Aquino especially, has not noticed them at all. They were not even favored with the usual dismissive and non-sensical statements of Coloma, Lacierda and Valte, that at least would have acknowledged their existence.
Congress, which calls for an inquiry whenever they can land in the media, has not bothered to visit with them.
Thank God Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle visited the encamped Lumads and identified with them, calling a stop to the killings and the government’s oppression of these, our fellow Filipinos.
President Aquino’s indifference and the Administration’s failure to assist the Lumads in their crisis of survival impel us to write today and ask our government:
1. How many more Lumad lives must be taken before President Aquino finally sees, hears and addresses the terrible plight and suffering of our Lumad communities in Mindanao? Will he persist in playing the proverbial three monkeys, who see no evil, hear no evil,and speak no evil?
2. How much more must the Lumads be robbed of their land and treasures by predatory business interests, before our government and our armed forces take up their sworn duty to protect and assist our indigenous peoples?
The situation is so dire that anything less than immediate and sweeping action by the government will constitute criminal neglect and dereliction of duty.
The killings must stop, justice must be done
As Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has rightly demanded, the Aquino Administration, using our police-military forces, should immediately disband and disarm the paramilitary groups that have perpetrated the killings and terrorized the Lumad communities. There should be no room to hide for the Magahat/Bagani paramilitary group, whose very presence in southern Mindanao is a menace to society. They should be hunted down.
Unless action is taken at once, we have no right to call ourselves a constitutional republic and a civilized society.
We would be a people who have consented to be governed by monkeys.