Philippine Army food blockade vs Lumad in Lianga in full force

Efforts to bring food to Lumad evacuees at Lianga, Surigao del Sur have failed despite repeated tries to talk to the military in the area, a local organization reported Sunday, December 3.

In a statement, the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) said the groups have already tried three times to coordinate with the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army manning the checkpoint at Kilometer 6 leading to the evacuation site, to no avail.

“At present, only the Municipal Social Work and Development office of Lianga was able to bring relief (since the forced evacuation started),” TRIFPSS said.

“The families have to make do with just five kilos of rice, two cans of sardines and two packs of instant noodles they received last November 29. The local government unit tries to give relief but these are inadequate for each family’s daily needs,” the group added.

Last November 26, 327 families with 1,177 individuals evacuated to Simowao from 14 Lumad communities in Bgy. Diatagon, Lianga and Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin due to intensified military operations in the area following President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown order against perceived supporters of the New People’s Army.

Lianga municipal councilor Sammy Dollano asked for assistance for the evacuees.

“This (food blockade) should be seriously investigated as massive violations of human rights [and] IHL (International Humanitarian Law (violations)] have been committed despite our repeated request for possible and orderly pull out of (Philippine Army) troops and entry of material assistance from NGO/CSO (non-government organization/civil society organization) partners,” Dollano in a statement said.

Interschool cultural festival pushed through

A performance of Lumad schoolchildren during their Interschool Cultural Center at Simowao, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. (TRIFPSS photo)

Meanwhile, schoolchildren at the Simowao evacuation site decided to push through with its Interschool Cultural Festival Saturday despite efforts by the military in the area to sabotage the event, TRFIPSS said.

TRIFPSS said the despite the intense militarization, food blockade and refusal by the 75th IBPA to allow participants from other towns in the province to attend the celebrations, the organizers decided to hold the festival at the Simowao Community Learning Center yesterday.

“The planned four-day happy celebration by Lumad youth from all the TRIFPSS community learning centers was replaced with sadness and fear,” the group said.

Aimed at showcasing rich Lumad culture, the festival featured songs, dances, poems and indigenous games that show their struggle to protect and defend their ancestral territory, TRIFPSS said.

The Lumad schoolchildren prepared for four months, inviting other TRIFPSS Lumad schools in the province and various organizations but were blocked by the soldiers at Kilometer 6. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)