In the past five years, operations of military and paramilitary groups have killed, threatened, displaced indigenous communities and close down their schools.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Indigenous peoples led by the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (Katribu) reiterated their call for President Aquino’s resignation, as they denounced the recent spate of killings of indigenous peoples, saying that too many lives have been lost and ruined under his presidency.
“It has been five years of the Aquino regime’s crooked path of fascism, five years of violation of the human rights of indigenous peoples and of the Filipino people,” said Karlan Fanagel, secretary general of the Confederation of Lumad Organizations of Southern Mindanao (Pasaka).
Katribu had documented the killing of 61 indigenous peoples killed in Aquino’s five years in power. Of these, 46 are Lumads of Mindanao who resisted mining, logging, destructive “development” projects and militarization in their indigenous communities.
From July 2010 to March 2010, the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) documented 238 victims of extrajudicial killings. Karapatan also documented thousands of Lumads fleeing their homes in the regions of Caraga, southern and northern Mindanao region in the first quarter of the year.
On July 4, Katribu leaders performed the Lumad ritual, “pandiwata,” just a few steps from Aquino’s residence on Times Street in Quezon City. Some 30 anti-riot police of the Quezon City Police District and a truck blocked the protesters from proceeding to the front gate of the Aquino residence.
Jomorito Goaynon, the Higaonon chairperson of the Kalumbay Northern Mindanao Regional Lumad Organization, chanted a call to summon the ancestors, spirits of Bagani warriors and the “diwatas” as they offered seven white chicken eggs, betel nut, and lit seven white candles, as a symbolic light to guide their struggle. Katribu said the ritual is usually performed before a “pangayaw” or tribal war.
“The ritual is not only symbolic, it is our pledge to continue the indigenous peoples’ struggle for the right to our ancestral lands and self-determination,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, Katribu spokesperson.
Among the protesters were indigenous leaders from different regions: Igorots from Cordillera, Dumagats, Ati and Aetas from Central Luzon, Tumandoks from Panay, Higaonon, B’laan, Subanen and Manobos from Mindanao. They spoke about cases of human rights abuses and development aggression under Aquino.
Failed Oplan Bayanihan
Fanagel recalled the June 14 strafing by 69th Infantry Battalion soldiers in Paquibato district, in Davao City, which killed three indigenous peasants: Ata tribal leader Datu Ruben Enlog, the chairperson of the farmers’ group, Nagkalupa, village leader Randy Carnasa, and Garyo Quimbo, a local church guitarist.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines insisted that it was a “legitimate encounter” and that the three victims were “rebels,” Fanagel said.
“Then, it means that for five years, the government’s counterinsurgency plan, Oplan Bayanihan is a failure, because it failed to neutralize, stop and defeat the NPA rebels,” said Fanagel. “Instead, it had killed civilians, indigenous peoples.”
Aida Seisa, the owner of the house who survived the strafing, was missing for two weeks, and had recently safely reunited with her family, Malayao said, quoting Seisa’s mother Rosita Sandolan.
Seisa, a Bagobo-Diangan, is the secretary general of the Paquibato District Peasant Association (Padipa) and the vice-chairperson of Sabokahan Indigenous Women Organization.
The killing of civilians claimed as encounter by the military was “not an isolated case,” Katribu said, citing some cases in the spate of killings in 2012:
In Laak, Compostela Valley, 60th IB soldiers killed Totong Mabinsi, a Dibabawon village police. The soldiers later admitted mistaking Mabinsi as an NPA rebel. In Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, 27th IB soldiers killed Andy Datuwata and Ronald Malley, members of the local indigenous group Kalgad, who were tagged as NPAs by the military. It was also 27th IB soldiers who killed B’laan Juvy Capion and her two sons, aged eight and 13, in Tampakan, South Cotabato, claiming a legitimate fire fight.
“They are killing civilians, not rebels or terrorists,” Malayao said, stressing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) needed to beat targets by Oplan Bayanihan’s termination in 2016.
Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) also noted the killing of human rights worker William Bugatti in 2014, by suspected military death squads in Ifugao. Bugatti had been branded as “brains of the NPA” by suspected state forces since 2012.
Bolinget also said there had been cases of rape of indigenous minors by soldiers, citing Army Capt. Danilo Lalin who had been charged of raping two high school students in Mankayan, Benguet in 2012.
Perpetuating the culture
This year, thousands of Lumads forcibly evacuated from their homes, as joint forces of paramilitary groups, as well as military teams for community organizing for peace and development (COPD) occupied their homes and public village facilities.
In January this year, a thousand Banwaons fled their homes in San Luis, Agusan del Sur, to seek safety from military operations. They returned home in March, after a series of negotiations with the military and local government. Four evacuees died during the displacement.
Cases of indiscriminate firing, threats and harassment were documented by a fact-finding mission.
Katribu had been calling for the revocation of Executive Order 546, issued by Aquino’s predecessor Pres. Gloria Arroyo, which legitimized private armed groups as investment defense forces (IDFs), operating with state forces.
Aquino, instead, maintained the order, and perpetuated the culture of impunity, Malayao said. Under Aquino, Lumad paramilitary groups roam the hinterland communities in Mindanao, protecting mining and agribusiness projects, and “terrorizing” indigenous communities which try to defend their ancestral lands, she said.
This year, on April 30, Manobo leader John Calaba of the group Kiduma, disappeared and is feared dead after being seen with security guards of the DMCI.
In Paquibato, the indigenous communities have resisted the entry of companies with mining applications for gold, silver and copper in at least 14,855 hectares.
Paramilitary groups also figured in reported cases of harassment against alternative schools.
Generations being killed
The Save our Schools Network have documented cases of soldiers and paramilitary groups harassing students, their parents and teachers of alternative Lumad schools, totalling 146 in Mindanao. The attack on Lumad schools escalated before classes opened in June.
In June, the Department of Education (DepEd) Region 10 gave in to demands to issue a permit to the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLCI), weeks after it issued a “notice of non-renewal of permit” after it claimed the school failed to comply with requirements for renewal. Soldiers have also reportedly branded STTICLCI as an “NPA school.”
The virtual closure of the STTLCI affected 2,896 Lumad students in Davao del Norte, and prompted tribal leaders and students to camp outside the DepEd Region 10 office in Davao City to demand the reopening of the school. The DepEd regional office had also recommended the opening of schools with soldiers as para-teachers.
“Why are they killing our leaders? Why are they closing down our schools, which we built even as government had neglected our communities?” Malayao said. She said it was “a blatant repression and violation of our right to development and self-determination.”
Malayao said human rights violations affect the indigenous communities in totality, as their dwindling number lose another member who should pass on the indigenous culture to the youth.
“They are not just killing individuals, but generations,” Malayao said.
“Even as Noynoy Aquino leaves Malacañang, we will continue to take him to task,” Fanagel said.
“We are ready to declare another ‘pangayaw,’ if we have to,” Fanagel said. “We will continue to unite the indigenous peoples from Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, and to fight until we achieve genuine change,” he said.