CONVENORS of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya (Lakbayan) challenged president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to continue to take action against militarization and United States intervention at a press conference at University of the Philippines-Diliman last October 10.
This year’s main Lakbayan contingent is set to arrive in Metro Manila on October 13 and again participated by national minority groups from all over the country protesting the continued militarization and land-grabbing of their ancestral lands by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), mining companies, and foreign interests.
“Many Lumad have been able to return to their communities following Duterte ascension to the presidency. They have been able to begin taking back their lives,” Dolphing Ogan, secretary-general of Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), said.
However, militarization still continues in their communities.
“They remain in their camps near our communities, seemingly intimidating us,” Ogan said.
Independent foreign policy
The Lumad also said they support Duterte’s statements for a strong independent foreign policy, amidst criticism thrown towards it.
“We shouldn’t believe claims that the Philippines will suffer if we break away from the US. We are being plundered, not helped, by US intervention,” Piya Macliing Malayao, secretary-general of Katribu, said.
“They monopolize and control the resouces of the Philippines, which takes away from the indigenous people. Them leaving would give us freedom, not suffering,” Malayao said.
“We should be the ones benefiting from our resources, not them,” Ogan added.
Jerome Succor Aba, national spokesperson for Suara Bangsamoro, added that the US was responsible for various atrocities and anti-people actions in recent memory, such as the Mamasapano massacre.
“Their presence has only allowed for various human rights violations. The US military presence brings danger to us, and this will continue as long as we remain subservient to America and allow them and their so-called ‘counterinsurgency’ practices here,” Aba said.
The leaders also challenged Duterte to turn his pronouncements into more concrete actions.
“Our issues have not been solved yet. We challenge the president to scrap all the existing anti-people policies, such as Oplan Bayanihan, America’s war on terror, DepEd Order 221 and the Mining Act of 1995,” Aba said.
Lakbayan leaders encouraged Filipinos to study more about the importance of an independent foreign policy and the current situation of indigenous peoples by visiting the Lakbayan when it comes to Metro Manila from October 13-21.
“The minorities and indigenous people have a long history fighting for self-determination and struggling against militarization and US intervention, and we would like to discuss it with the Filipino people during the Lakbayan,” Malayao said. # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)