“Research takes sides, too and it does not make it unscientific.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Seeing the importance of research in advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples in Mindanao, a religious group and a think-tank established the Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies (MIILS).
Headed by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) and Ibon Foundation, the MIILS was formally launched to the public, Nov. 8 at the Balai Kalinaw, University of the Philippines Diliman.
In her opening remarks, Sr. Maria Famita Somogod, MSM, said that in the years of their work among the Lumad communities in the region, the wealth of data they collect is not properly consolidated. The MIILS, she said, wants to validate data that can be used in designing campaign strategies for human rights advocacy.
Somogod said the RMP-NMR has assisted communities evacuating because of the militarization in their ancestral lands. Later on, they learned that various companies have expressed interest in these areas of conflict. The MIILS has an ongoing research on large-scale mining companies operating in Mindanao.
Arnold Alamon, MIILS executive editor and sociology professor at the Mindanao State University – Iligan, is currently researching on the historical discrimination of the Lumad.
Alamon underscored that the Lumad crisis the country is witnessing right now has historical, economic and political reasons.
Alamon said the Lumad had experienced three waves of displacement. First was during the Spanish colonialism when they were driven from the riverside to the mountains. Second was during the 1920s through 1930s when American logging companies forced the Lumad out of their ancestral domain. The next phase of displacement was led by mining companies.
Since 2010, over 40,000 Lumad have been displaced due to intense military operations.
Lumad schools set up by religious institutions and Lumad organizations are under attack. Alamon said there have been 87 cases of attacks on Lumad schools and 233 cases of human rights abuses against the Lumad children.
Alamon said the MIILS wants to chronicle the narrative of Lumad people. “If we fail to account for their (Lumad) story then we will also fail to account for our story as a people,” he said.
“It is a story of marginalization and oppression. But the fact that they are here means it is also a story of resistance,” Alamon said.
About 700 Lumad and peasants from all over Mindanao have travelled to the nation’s capital to drum beat their most urgent concerns. Dubbed as Manilakbayan, the delegates are now encamped at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.
Bias for Lumad
Jose Enrique Africa, Ibon Foundation’s executive director, said he is happy that the MIILS is clearly taking the side of Lumad.
“Research takes sides, too, and it does not make it unscientific,” Africa said.
Margarito Raynera Jr., programme officer of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines, said the MIILS is an important component of the Healing the Hurt project funded by the European Union (EU).
“We hope the MIILS will be able to help in providing lessons and education among the indigenous people,” Rayner said.
Mary Louise Dumas, MIILS executive director, presented the MIILS website (www.miils.org) and the institute’s programs and services.
Dumas said that aside from researches,the MIILS has media associates doing investigative reports.
She called on members of the academe and students to work with the institution.