Woman tribal chieftain praised at int’l confab

“Refusal and resistance is an indictment of the state that boasts of respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples.”


MANILA- Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, the Matigsalug woman chieftain who reprimanded a legislator for trying to force them to leave an evacuation center in Davao City, received praises after a video of her was shown at an international conference here in Quezon City.

Some delegates at the International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM) were moved after watching a video footage of Bigkay’s emotional dressing down of North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco on July 23 inside the Haran House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City.

The footage, taken by Kilab Multimedia, was part of a presentation at the IPCM by Sister Stella Matutina, OSB, of Panalipdan Mindanao on July 31.

“That woman in that video…that is a real resistance that we need to show,” said a delegate from Africa.

Bigkay, 70, of Palma Gil village, Talaingod, Davao del Norte, is one of the 700 Lumad evacuees who have sought sanctuary at the UCCP Haran for two months following encampment in the communities by soldiers and the paramilitary group Alamara.

In the closing statement to the conference, Fr. Rex Reyes, of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines, said Bigkay’s actions show “resistance against mining” and the powers-that-be that oppress the indigenous tribes.

The footage showed Bigkay seated, as she castigated a standing Catamco, who was straining to cut in, and to get the Lumad chieftain to look at her. But Bigkay kept looking away, as she upbraided the congresswoman for forcing them to return home, without responding to their demand for the withdrawal of military and paramilitary groups in their communities.

Catamco went talk to Bigkay after police forced their way inside the evacuation center at the UCCP Haran on July 23. Dozens were injured as the Lumad evacuees tried to stop the Davao City police, in an act they likened to military attacks in their communities.

Reyes said Catamco, who is of Manobo descent, showed disrespect to Bigkay. On July 15, Catamco reprimanded the Lumad evacuees for staying in Davao City and told them to return to their communities.

“Refusal and resistance is an indictment of the state that boasts of respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples,” Reyes said in a statement, which was read at the IPCM by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Edre Olalia.

Reyes stressed that the Aquino government and the US government were both found guilty of transgression of economic sovereignty and the rights of the Filipino people, at the recently concluded International Peoples Tribunal held in Washington DC.

“Our resistance can draw lessons from the spirituality of the indigenous people,” Reyes said, as the groups struggle against mining firms and governments “who will not listen.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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