By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Tribal school children who are seeking refuge at the University of the Philippines threw a humble surprise birthday party for former lawmaker and staunch rights activist Satur Ocampo, who turned 80 over the weekend.
“He does not look like his age, does he? He will be mistaken to be in his teens,” jested Caicai, one of the Lumad school children, during the short program.
Ocampo has been very active in seeking justice for displaced Lumad, who were forced to leave their homes and ancestral lands due to heavy militarization.
Last year, Ocampo was arrested when he, along a fact-finding mission, rescued Lumad children who were forcibly evacuating in Talaingod in Davao. He was consequently slapped with kidnapping and human trafficking charges as a result.
In today’s celebration, however, Lumad school children took turns in hugging the former lawmaker, thanking him for being an inspiration to their struggle for their rights and for their ancestral domains.
“He is quite known in Talaingod,” Lumad student Rorelyn Mandacawan told Bulatlat in a short interview.
Mandacawan is a cousin of one of the Lumad children that Ocampo and the rest of the fact finding mission rescued last year.
She said that their community was enraged over the trumped-up charges against the lawmaker. These charges, she added, must be dropped.
“It can be quite intimidating to stand next to him because I know how big his contribution is to the society. It reminds us that we need to struggle hard as well,” she said.
Among those present are human rights defenders from Karapatan, Desaparecidos, and Sandugo. They, too, were joined by cultural workers from Concerned Artists of the Philippines and journalists from various alternative news agencies such as Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, AlterMidya – People’s Media Network, and Alipato Media Monitoring and Training Center. (bulatlat.com)