The second of five children, he had to discontinue college at the University of Mindanao in 2009 after his father, Ludenio Monzon, was gunned down allegedly by soldiers of 67th Infantry Battalion in Boston, Davao Oriental, near a police station.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “We were peaceful before the soldiers came” – This is how 23-year old Jong Monzon remembers their community in Boston, Davao Oriental in Mindanao. He proudly recalls how they had built their own irrigation to support their farms; how they had built and run schools right within their communities.
The two projects greatly helped their community of mostly indigenous peoples – they grow and harvest their food, they educate their children.
“We had farms. We planted palay (rice), corn, sweet potato, cassava – all for our community’s food supply,” he proudly shared while marching to Mendiola Bridge in Manila, in Manilakbayan’s first march in the capital this year after a week of long journey from Mindanao.
The irrigation and schools were projects of their datus, he said. But as these developed and increasingly benefited their community, the Armed Forces of the Philippines insulted their abilities and attacked their communities, claiming these are not their projects, but of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Monzon decried the attacks to their communities and projects. He said it hurts to think their food crops are just wilting and dying, far from their care now that they were forced to evacuate for their lives. He thinks those food crops were likely destroyed by now, while they suffer the distance from their sources of livelihood.
Now they are evacuees at the UCCP’s Haran compound in Davao City. Not only their community from Davao Oriental but other indigenous peoples, too, from nearby towns, are sharing the place. With them were evacuees or internal refugees from the towns of Kapalong and Talaingod, both in Davao del Norte, and towns of San Fernando and Kitaotao, both in Bukidnon. They bring with them similar tales of attacked projects and schools of IPs after these were falsely attributed to the New Peoples’ Army by the military.
Struggle for dignity
Monzon said he became secretary general of Pasaka “at the height of their mass evacuation from militarization.”
He was born to a Manobo father and a Mandaya mother. The second in five children, he had to discontinue college at the University of Mindanao in 2009, after his father, Ludenio Monzon, was gunned down allegedly by soldiers from 67th Infantry Battalion in Boston, Davao Oriental, near a police station.
“My father had wanted me to study so we would not continue being made a fool of mining corporations,” Monzon recalled.
He said the Omega Gold Company had told his father that he was like a thorn in their operation. His father and the community were protesting the entry of the mining company. Omega had applied to explore for gold and copper in nearly 3,700 hectares in Boston, Davao Oriental in 2006.
“They’re killing our Lumad leaders; they want to shut down our schools which they had had no hand in bringing to reality,” Monzon summed up the immediate reasons why they have evacuated, and why they have brought their protests to the Philippine capital.
He blamed the Aquino government’s militarization as the reason they are marching to the cities. About half of the 781 Lakbayanis came from Southern Mindanao Region, he said.
Instead of attacking the IP projects, they said the government should be supporting their schools, agricultural innovations, and care of the environment. They demanded as well the pullout of military in their communities and farms.
He said they have endured too many hardships and sacrifices but they went ahead with the Manilakbayan. Referring to military actions against their tribe, including the hurtful words by Rep. Catamco, he said these only prod them to increase their courage.