‘Turf war complicates Lumad problem’

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THE battle for control over their ancestral domain, including the vast mineral resources in their turf, has caused prominent Lumad leaders to turn against one another, a top government official said on Tuesday.

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Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, Executive Director of Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace, said the Lumads have a unique brand of politics that is deeply embedded in their equally unique culture.

“It is important to understand the Lumad, their culture, their ways. The Lumad leadership, for example, they have datus, they have baganis who are the cultural guards. They have babaylans, the religious leader,” Bautista explained.

He said the role of the datu is all about the “control of the ancestral domain where most of the mineral resources are.”

“It is, in fact, control of these resources. And their system has been abused,” Bautista added.

“Kanya-kanya (to each his own). Because the datus have a very big say in terms of the ancestral domain, the ancestral land… (the) consent given to the different mining companies to explore the resources there,” Bautista stressed.

“So, he is in a very powerful position,” he pointed out.

This explains why many datus and baganis came under the influence of the NPA units operating in their area.

“There are so many baganis organized by the NPA. You have heard of the Pulang Bagani Command, then there is the Magahat-Bagani, those are mostly former NPAs also, now anti-NPA, defending also their ancestral domain,” the official said in a press briefing.

Bautista, a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), described the Lumad problem as “very complicated.”

“What we want is for them to resolve all of these issues among themselves without interference from any outside forces. And they have the means to do so. They have the facility to do so, the structure to do so and it’s just empowering them and leading them to resolve all of these issues in leadership, in the baganis, in the ancestral domains and who controls the ancestral domains, who will deal with the mining companies and we should allow them to do that,” he emphasized.

While there are Lumads who belong to the government and communist rebels, Bautista said there are non-conformists who decided to move on their own and by themselves protect their territories.

He urged the NPA to leave the Lumads alone, noting that many killings involving the local community were committed by the communist armed group whose guerrilla bases are within the turf of the indigenous community.

“There had been a lot of Lumad killings, most of them perpetrated by the New People’s Army. Hundreds have been killed already in the past so many years. It is unfortunate that the Lumads are in the center of all of this… we appeal to the CPP-NPA to please spare the Lumads,” Bautista said, adding that Lumads “deserve to live freely in their ancestral domain the way they want to do to live and we hope that this is respected.”

“Any ideological or political issue must be resolved through the most peaceful way without exploiting any groups,” he added.

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