MANILA Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Wednesday joined calls for an end to harassments and killings of lumad, the indigenous people (IP) of southern Mindanao, allegedly perpetrated by a paramilitary group.
Tagle also called on the Aquino administration to immediately disband and disarm the paramilitary group, referring to the Magahat/Bagani group, which is being held responsible for the attacks and murders that resulted in disclocation of tribal members.
“Nananawagan kami, unang-una, sa ating mga pinuno sa pamahalaan. Pairalin sana nila ang kapayapaan. Nangangahulugan ito ng paglisan ng mga hukbong militar sa lugar ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo, at gayundin ng pagbuwag at pag-alis ng mga armas sa mga grupong paramilitar [First and foremost, we call on our government leaders to let peace reign. This means the withdrawal of the military from lumad communities, and also he disbandment and disarming of paramilitary groups],” Tagle said in a statement that he read while visiting protesting lumad, who had set up camp at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.
He gave food and water to the lumad, who in turn gifted him with a tubao or an ethnic handkerchief.
At the same time, Tagle also called on the military and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the umbrella organization of left-leaning groups, to declare areas inhabited by the IP as “peace zones.”
He appealed for material and moral support to the lumad families, who are now sheltered in various evacuation centers after they were forced to leave their homes for fear for their lives.
“Nangagailangan sila, higit sa lahat, ng pagkain, tubig, gamot, malasakit at pang-unawa.Tulungan sana natin sila [More than anything else, they need food, water, medicines, sympathy and understanding. Let us help them],” the cardinal said.
“Gawin rin sana natin ang lahat ng ating magagawa upang makabalik sila sa kanilang mga tahanan at lupain, at mamuhay doon ng ligtas at matiwasay [Let us all do what we can so that they can return to their lands and live there safely and peacefully],” Tagle added.
He expressed hope that those responsible for the death of three tribal leaders be brought to justice and made to answer for their the crimes they committed.
Some 558 lumad families or 2,800 individuals are currently housed in evacuation centers in Tandag City in Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon.
They have been staying there for months now after they were driven out of their mineral-rich lands by the Magahat/Bagani paramilitary group allegedly at the behest of big mining and logging firms.
The lumad complaints have been brought to the attention of the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights but nothing happened.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has denied any link to the Magahat/Bagani armed group.