By MARYA SALAMAT
The Lakbayan delegates of Lumad and Moro from Mindanao and other national minorities from the Visayas received a warm welcome today as they arrived at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna. The indigenous groups from Southern Tagalog led by Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) joined in welcoming their fellow national minorities.
Amit Gabriel, a Mangyan leader from Mindoro, said in a statement the communities of national minorities in the region have also been in peril and under attack after the Duterte regime “let loose its fascist military forces.”
Gabriel, the spokesperson of BALATIK, said that in the Southern Tagalog region, the groups of Mangyan, Dumagat, Remontado and Palawan hill tribes, among others, are hounded by intense militarization of their communities wrought by the regime’s all-out war policy against the New People’s Army the prior implementation of the new Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) “Kapayapaan”.
In Mindoro Island, some “development” projects have further pushed the minorities out of their ancestral lands, Gabriel said. The nickel mining projects there are being supported by the government troops which have been “brandishing a reign of terror” in their communities.
Similar tales of forced evacuation from their lands hounded the rest of the national minorities, spurring them to this second Lakbayan.
‘No other solution but to unite and oppose fascist attacks’ – Lakbayan of national minorities
In solidarity with the Lakbayan delegates, the college student councils in UPLB, the All UP Academic Employees Union, various student and multisectoral organizations and the NNARA-Youth held a series of activities upon the minorities’ arrival.
They held a forum on the campus grounds on Tuesday, August 29. The Lumad and Moro shared their experiences living under Martial Law in Mindanao. The national minorities from the Visayas and Southern Tagalog shared their experiences under the all-out war policy and Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) “Kapayapaan” sponsored by the US-Duterte regime.
Balatik noted that in all regions represented by the Lakbayan2017 delegates the ordinary people and national minorities experience state-sponsored violence. They live in misery. They suffer human rights violations, political persecution, massive displacement and economic disenfranchisement. All these they trace to its direct cause – the government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan “Kapayapaan.” Gabriel said it results to intensifying militarization of the countryside boosted by the deployment of US troops and the declaration and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.
Balatik views the Duterte regime’s adoption of Islamophobic War on Terror strategy in the Martial Law in Mindanao as the “visible” manifestation of its “connivance with the US military.” Gabriel warned that such wars will only deepen the existing enmity against the Moro.
The gathered Moro and national minorities agreed that with these experiences, there is no other solution but unite and oppose “the fascist policies of the US-Duterte regime, in defense of the national minorities’ land and communities.”
Joyful, colorful series of reunions
Not all of the national minorities’ get together were grim sharing of their particular tales of woe under the gun. Like in Cebu City on August 23, in Masbate City on August 26, in Tabugon Crossing, Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, on Aug. 27 in Naga City and in Lucena on August 28, they held some joyous, colorful and musical Salubungan. In every salubungan the Lakbayan increases in number as more members of national minorities joined the caravan amid cultural presentations, fora, and the Lakbayan pressing ahead.
Yesterday after their brief stop at Camarines Norte, the Lakbayani (conjoined Filipino words for journey, nation and heroes) held a cultural gathering upon arrival in Brgy. Gulang-Gulang, Lucena City. There they were joined by members of national minorities in Southern Tagalog. Amid a salubungan in Lucena City, supporters, artists, youth, groups and sectors advocating the calls for peace and justice created some street art. A group called Food Not Bombs-Lucena distributed food to the Lakbayani.
In Laguna on August 29, Gabriel of Balatik welcomed their show of unity, describing it as the fruitful expression of a longer solidarity they have shared for years now in calling for self-determination and just, lasting peace.
He said their gathering this year is also in opposition to Martial Law in Mindanao. He warned against its potential implementation on a national scale.
On August 30 the caravan is headed to Calamba City for a salubungan with people’s organizations from the Southern Tagalog region. Then they will head to the national capital.