“The continuing attacks against Lumad communities and schools, including the recent evacuation in Compostela, show both the hypocrisy and desperation of the US-Aquino regime, especially with Oplan Bayanihan’s failure.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Days before International Human Rights Day, the Lumad seeking refuge in various evacuation sites in Mindanao expressed that they want to be home in their respective communities by Christmas.
“It has been three months since Sept. 1. Christmas is almost at hand. And this will be the saddest Christmas as we remain evacuees in Tandag City,” Josephine Pagalan of tribal group Kasalo said in a press conference last Dec. 5 at the CICM Provincial House in Quezon City.
Karapatan said there have been 19 incidents with over 7,000 victims of forced evacuation in 2015 alone, mostly coming from Mindanao. There are nearly 3,000 Lumad evacuees in Tandag Sports Complex for three months now, while nearly a thousand more have sought refuge at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City.
Their forced evacuation was due to intensified military and paramilitary counterinsurgency operations that targeted the Lumad, including the children. Rights groups have long assailed that this is being done to give way to big mining operations to encroach on their ancestral domains.
From October to November this year, the Lumad joined Manilakbayan to bring their plight to Metro Manila. They highlighted the Sept. 1 killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur that spurred the forced evacuation to Tandag City.
Still, attacks against them have persisted. Last Nov. 28, about 33 families in Side 4, Mangayon village in Compostela Valley left their homes and sought sanctuary at the municipal gymnasium. They fled from their homes due to harassment and threats from soldiers who encamped in their community and their tribal school, Salugpongan Ta ‘tanu Igkanungon Community Learning Center.
“The continuing attacks against Lumad communities and schools, including the recent evacuation in Compostela, show both the hypocrisy and desperation of the US-Aquino regime, especially with Oplan Bayanihan’s failure,” said Kerlan Fanagel, Pasaka chairperson and third nominee of Sulong Katribu partylist.
“We demand the immediate pull out of troops from Lumad communities to stop the exodus of people from the villages and let the bakwit (evacuees) go home for the holidays,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Why not jail Aquino?
Human rights group Hustisya, for its part, said President Aquino should be jailed for its gross rights violations.
Michelle Campos, daughter of slain tribal leader Dionel Campos, who was killed in the Sept. 1 Lianga killings, said the perpetrators continue to walk free and sow terror in neighboring towns, despite a pending warrant of arrest against them.
“Aquino should be behind bars, instead of political prisoners,” former political prisoner Andrea Rosal said.
Fanagel, during the press conference, said families of victims of human rights violations continue to suffer the same injustice as those behind the killings remain scot-free. These include soldiers and members of paramilitary groups behind the brutal killing of tribal leader Jimmy Liguyon, Italian priest Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, the Pacquibato massacre, among others.
Rosal, daughter of late Communist Party of the Philippines spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, was several months pregnant when she was arrested last year. She gave birth while in detention, and her baby died after two days.
There are 561 political prisoners in the country, with more than half arrested under Aquino’s term.
Niki Gamara, daughter of political prisoner Renante Gamara, said, “They said Aquino should be given poor grades. But in reality, he did not even ‘enroll’ to be given a grade at all. He did not exert any effort to show that he cares for the human rights situation in the country.”