“Natural resources are being plundered from the ancestral lands of our national minorities.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has included the national minorities’ agenda in its peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
Speaking before members of Sandugo, an alliance of national minorities, at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Oct. 26, NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultant Wilma Austria Tiamzon said the NDFP’s draft on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (Caser) addresses the absence of national industrialization and backward agriculture, which stunted national development.
Wilma said the NDFP’s 12-point program recognizes the right of Bangsamoro, the Cordillera, Lumad and other indigenous peoples to self-determination. “Genuine right to self-determination can only be achieved if the exploitation and oppression by the ruling elite of landlords and big business and their U.S. master would have been ended,” she said.
Wilma said the NDFP fully support the national minorities’ stand against foreign intervention in the nation’s affairs.
On Oct. 19, Sandugo staged a protest in front of the United States Embassy to call for an independent foreign policy. Elements of the Manila police violently dispersed the protest action.
“Ang imperyalistang US ang pangunahing nakatapak sa likod ng lahat ng pambansang minorya at ng mamamayang Pilipino” (US imperialism is the main oppressor of national minorities and the Filipino people) Wilma said.
Wilma said U.S. imperialism dictates national policies that are detrimental to the Filipino people.
“Our national minorities know this. Natural resources are being plundered from the ancestral lands of our national minorities,” Wilma said.
She added that if all mining applications from the Cordillera to Mindanao would be approved, the country’s mountains would be flattened.
Nenita Condez, a Lumad leader from Zamboanga Peninsula and Minda Dalinan from Socksargen called for the cancellation of all large-scale mining and logging permits in ancestral domains.
Wilma said the NDFP supports the demands of national minorities to save their schools from military attacks, repeal of laws that are anti-indigenous peoples and anti-Moro and the dissolution of government agencies and institutions that deceive and harm the national minorities.
Wilma said the most immediate demand is the pullout of military troops in Lumad communities.
“We know the difficult the situation of Lumad evacuees,” Wilma said. They must be allowed to return to their homes immediately.”
Benito said the NDFP has repeatedly raised with the GRP panel the reported violations of ceasefire by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Majority of the reported violations came from Mindanao, he said.
According to human rights alliance Karapatan, ten indigenous peoples have become victims of extrajudicial killings since Duterte assumed office.
In the same period, 26 cases of military attacks on Lumad schools in the Southern Mindanao Region have been recorded by the Save Our Schools Network.
During the open forum, Josephine Pagalan, a Manobo leader from Surigao del Sur, lamented that authorities are not effecting the warrant of arrest against the perpetrators of the Sept. 1, 2015 Lianga massacre.
Witnesses identified paramilitary leaders Calpet Egua, Loloy Tejero, Bobby Tejero, Margarito Layno and 32 others as the killers of school director Emerito Samarca and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo.
Benito said the AFP has been saying that paramilitary groups are not covered by the government’s ceasefire.
Wilma said that if government fails to give justice, the New People’s Army guerrillas could implement revolutionary justice and go after the most rabid violators of human rights.
Wilma said the government reactionary forces are there to maintain the status quo. Amid the repressive attacks on the Filipino people’s rights, Wilma said it is the democratic right of citizens to take up arms against an exploitative and oppressive system.