Cordillerans to launch #DEFENDCORDILLERA campaign on IP Day

Activists will commemorate International Day of the Worlds’ Indigenous Peoples (IPs) on Thursday, August 9, in Baguio City to call for a stop to intensified attacks, plunder of ancestral land and resources, militarization, and the criminalization of indigenous human rights defenders,

In a press conference in the said city Monday, August 6, the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said different forms of protest activities will be held in the city, including the launch of an internationally coordinated social media campaign and a cultural and protest march to be attended by indigenous peoples from around the country and abroad.

CPA Secretary General Bestang Dekdeken said that this year’s World’s IP Day will be observed against the backdrop of intensified tyranny, criminalization, harassment and political killings of indigenous human rights defenders in the region.

She said they will drumbeat the killing of anti-dam activist Ricardo Mayumi, the filing of trumped-up cases against five Cordillera women development workers and human rights defenders as well as innocent civilians, and the the terrorist proscription of seven past and present leaders of the CPA as among the issues on Thursday.

The militarization and bombings of communities resisting development aggression, the intensified surveillance and harassment of the offices of regional and provincial IP organizations are included in their campaign, she added.

“Widespread terror against the indigenous peoples is unleashed by the government forces in connivance with big corporations to silence the strong opposition against development aggression or attacks on land, life and rights,” Dekdeken said.

The CPA also accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of being in cahoots with the mining and energy corporationsto destroy our ancestral lands and attack the indigenous peoples, with the help of foreign loans.

“The intensified militarization of communities such as in Besao, Mountain Province is resulting in human rights violations, including trumped-up charges against innocent civilians Edmond and Saturnino Dazon, and disruption of peoples’ livelihood,” Dekdeken added.

Members of the Women Resist Tyranny, meanwhile, expressed alarm over “intensified attacks” against human rights defenders in the Cordilleras.

Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, one of the seven CPA leaders named in a DOJ proscription list released last February, said that women activists and development workers have been at the receiving end of various trumped-up charges since last year.

This, she says, made it more difficult for the delivery of basic social services, projects and campaigns in remote communities which has suffered government neglect for too long now.

“What women development workers are guilty of is having the courage to fight for our children and our kakailian against the evils that try trespass our ancestral lands. We are guilty of carrying on the fight of the brave Kalinga, Ina Petra and Bontoc women who opposed the Chico dam, the women of Abra who fought the operation of Cellophil Resources in Abra, and the all the women warriors of Cordillera who resist national oppression,” Cawiding said.

The CPA shall launched its social media campaign dubbed #DEFENDCORDILLERA from August 8 to 10.

They said they enjoin the support of all Igorots around the world and advocates of indigenous peoples rights to post, write and share their solidarity through their social media accounts.

On thursday, a protest cultural march to Baguio’s Malcolm Square will also be held by mostly indigenous groups from all the six provinces of the region and Baguio City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A woman who ‘squeezed men’s balls’ in defense of her homeland

By Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol

BONTOC, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE–Today, May 31, Petra “Ina Tannao” Macliing, a pioneering indigenous woman leader who stood against corporate greed, development agression and martial law was laid to rest in her beloved Mainit village in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

She is far from being “weak and meek”—as President Rodrgio Duterte said women are. She is not just an indigenous woman leader but a fierce warrior.

In the 1970s, women from Mainit village bared their breasts as they confronted engineers of a mining company that intended to operate in their ancestral land. Baring breasts among the Bontoc are believed to hex unwanted strangers in their communities. The engineers left.

The leader of the warrior women was Ina Tannao who passed on last May 25, 90 years old at the time of her passing.

This story about Ina Tannao and the Mainit women is a tale retold in gatherings of women activists to illustrate the lengths Cordillera women will go to protect their homeland from aggressors.

Ina Chamgay Tay-ug was with Ina Tannao when the women drove away the mining engineers. She vividly remembers that day but struggles now to remember the date.

“Tannao gathered us women that day. She told us we will be the ones to stop [the mine] from destroying our mountain,” she related.

Ina Chamgay said the women climbed the mountain where the engineers were drilling, and “stripped naked like Tannao told us.”

“We dared them to harm the womb from where they came,” she said.

After driving the engineers away, the Mainit women raided their camp, took all of their supplies to the town center and left these there to rot. “We did not eat their food. We just wanted them to leave,” Ina Chamgay said.

The Mainit women’s chants are still being shouted in political gatherings today: “Uray maid armas mi/ armas mi nan ima mi / estawes, esta-gawis/ ikmer mi snan fitfitli, fitfitlin na raraki/ estawes, esta-gawis!” (We may not be armed/ but our hands are our weapons/ We use our bare hands to squeeze balls, the balls of men.)

Despite having similar names, Ina Tannao is not related to Cordillera hero Macli-ing Dulag, the Butbut tribe pangat (leader) in Kalinga who was assassinated in 1980 for opposing the Chico River Dam project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. But like Dulag, Ina Tannao also actively opposed the World Bank-funded Chico Dam project and fought the entry of mining ventures in her province.

Ina Tannao did not confine herself solely to the concerns of her village. She attended bodong (peace pact) conferences where the pangats from the Bontoc and Kalinga villages discussed the impact of the Chico river projects, Joanna Cariño said, founder of the activist group Cordillera Peoples Alliance. These conferences unified the Cordillera against the dam project, corporate logging in Abra province and Marcos’s Martial Law.

From 1981 to 1983, Ina Tannao helped form the Cordillera Bodong Association and became the only female pangat. Ina Tannao also helped form the Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association in 1979, a federation of tribal leaders and peace pact holders.

Ina Tannao lost her husband early and was left to raise eight children. Her only son died at a very young age.

She earned a living on the farm or by tending to a sari-sari store in order to put her seven daughters through college.

Lawyer Franscesca Macliing-Claver, her youngest child, said she was three months old when her father died. “She was the only parent I have known,” she said.

Ina Tannao once told her children a story about a couple who offered to adopt their youngest sibling, Claver said. “I was that baby. The couple came with baby clothes and feeding bottles, ready to fetch me. But my mother refused to give me up,” she said. “My sisters used to tease me that I was destined to have a different surname.”

Georgia Velasco of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said she met Mother Petra in early 1980s when the older woman encouraged her peers to take adult literacy classes. “She valued education and learning and never stopped learning and sharing what she learned to others,” even though Mother Petra never attended college, Velasco said.

Ina Tannao helped organize her fellow literacy students into a farmers organization. At the age of 70, she helped form the Cordillera Elders Alliance in 2006. She traveled to the Cordillera provinces to speak to fellow elders about their continuing struggle for social justice.

“If she did not suffer from dementia and was still alive today, she would have opposed the misogyny of President Duterte,” Cariño said.

Macliing’s contributions to social transformation is recognized by local and international bodies.

On May 29, Sagada officials headed by Mayor James Pooten personally handed to the Macling family a council resolution honoring Mother Petra. The resolution recognized her leadership in the Cordillera people’s struggle against the Chico River dams, Cellophil logging, entry of mining in her Mainit village and against Marcos’s dictatorship. “Let her noble accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the present and coming generation,” the resolution read.

In 2009, Macliing was honored as among nine awardees for outstanding rural women of the world of the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s Laureate Prize for Rural Women. She was recognized for her pioneering work and invaluable contribution to the Cordillera people’s struggle for indigenous people’s rights to their land and to self determination. The WWSF Laureate Award honors creative and courageous women for their contribution in improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights and peace.

In 2012, Macliing was one of the six Filipino women awarded by the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition during the 5th International Day of Rural Women for advancing and promoting indigenous peoples rights and civil rights; for combating violence against women and for seeking better treatment of the rural poor, political prisoners, farmers and children.

Current CPA chair Windel Bolinget said that while they mourn Ina Tannao’s passing they celebrate her life, “a life well lived”. He said that she set a shining example for the younger generation to follow.

Bolinget challenged everyone to follow Ina Tannao’s example in defending the Cordillera homeland from development agression and continue her work for social justice and national freedom.

“For there is no greater tribute to Ina Tannao but to continue what she has started in the defense of the Cordillera homeland, advancing the right to self-determination and genuine autonomy,” Bolinget said. #

Lumad child narrates how her mother saved her

“Nang binaril kami ng tatlong lalaki na naka-motor, tinulak ako ni mama palayo para hindi ako tamaan ng bala,” eight-year old Nene (not her real name) narrated how she survived the gun attack on May 26 at Brgy Salvacion, Trento, Agusan del Sur. (When the three men in motorcycles shot at us, mama pushed me away so I won’t get hit.)

Nene was nonetheless hit on her left shoulder while her mother, Beverly Geronimo, 27, died on the spot from seven gunshot wounds.

‘Soldiers’ kill mother, injure daughter in Agusan ambush

Just a few hours earlier, Nene and Beverly were at Trento town center, buying school supplies for the incoming school year that starts next week. Nene is an incoming grade three student of the Lumad school Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI).

Like most schoolchildren, Nene was excited about the new school year. Her school, as other Lumad schools throughout Mindanao, may have been continuously branded by the military and President Rodrigo Duterte himself as rebel schools, but it was her second home where she learns academics and Lumad culture.

Last May 26, Nene, Beverly and another relative, Lucy, were at Trento’s public market for the school supplies. Along with other items they bought, these were loaded on a “skylab”, a motorcycle fitted with wings to take on more passengers and cargo.

“We already noticed suspicious looking men on board motorcycles at the public market,” Lucy recalled. On their way home, three other riders chased them on the highway and began firing. A happy moment for the child instantly became a nightmare.

Beverly was hit at the back and Nene on the left shoulder. Lucy jumped off from the motorcycle and hid in a nearby canal. She saw the gunmen drive closer to Beverly and pumped more bullets at her.

Nene and her injured shoulder. (SOS photo)

‘Tokhangin namin kayo’

Beverly was a farmer who joined the Tabing Guangan Farmers Association (TAGUAFA) in Trento to protect their community from mining projects. She was a vocal critic of large scale mining companies OZ Metals and Agusan Petroleum.

By becoming an anti-mining activist, Beverly became a target of military harassment in the past nine years, including by the Philippine Army’s 75th, 25th, 67th and 66th infantry battalions that have been rotationally deployed around their community.

Merely two months ago, Beverly and other members of TAGUAFA were labeled by soldiers as “New People’s Army (NPA) surrenderees” in their community, a charge she vehemently denied.

Soldiers nonetheless warned Beverly that should she continue support the NPA they will come back for her. “Tokhangin namin kayo,” one military officer of the Philippine Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion warned her.

Nene recalled soldiers would go to their house to ask where her mother is. “Kapag hinahanap ng mga sundalo si mama, sinasabi ko nalang sa kanila na may pinuntahan siya,” Nene said. (When the soldiers come and asked for my mama, I said she was away.)

But Beverly was not all about her anti-mining and land rights activism. In behalf of Nene, she agreed to be elected as president of the MISFI Academy Parent Teachers and Community Association (PTCA) to become active in Nene’s school, another advocacy that earned the military’s ire.

In the past four years, Lumad school children and parents have been targets of the military’s intensified counter-insurgency campaign, especially those located in communities that resist mining operations. As members of Dibabawon tribe, Beverly enrolled Nene at MISFI that not only offer free tuition but a curriculum that respects Lumad culture.

But the military could not tolerate the insolence of alternative schools that encourages Lumad students to read and write, as well as to love and defend their ancestral lands. The Save Our Schools (SOS) network said that 56 Lumad schools throughout Mindanao have been forcibly closed, 18 schools destroyed and divested of equipment, and more than 2,000 students failed to finish previous schools year due to closure and threats by the military.

“From Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan to the current Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan, there is no let-up in the State’s malicious labelling and targeting of Lumad schools, teachers, students and parents as NPA fronts,” SOS said.

“Children are not even spared. If they themselves are not killed, they have become orphans denied their right to be cared for by their parents,” Salinlahi Alliance for Children secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay added.

SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said Beverly’s murder, as well as the murder of many anti-mining Lumad, is on the hands of the government. He said Duterte’s Martial Law has allowed soldiers to become law all over Mindanao.

“In Mindanao, countless lives have perished in a brutal manner in the hands of military elements,” said Valle. “For the sake of the Lumad children, this bloody campaign has to stop,” Valle said.

Beverly’s coffin. (SOS photo)

Missing her mother

Nene would not be able to attend MISFI’s first school day on Monday. Looking at her mother’s coffin, she said, “Hindi ako makakapasok sa June 4 dahil antayin ko pa si Mama,” Nene said. (I won’t go to school this June 4. I will first wait for mama’s burial.)

At her tender age, Nene is now forced to bury her mother and become one to her younger siblings, ages six and two. Already, she misses her mother. “Mabait si mama at maalaga. Magaling syang magluto ng sinugba,” recalled. (Mama was kind and she took care of us. She prepared grilled food well.)

Suddenly, Nene would have to grow up fast. In her young mind, though, it is clear who martyred her mother. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA blasts Lepanto mine facilities

BAGUIO CITY— The Chadli Molintas Command (CMC) and Jennifer Carino Command (JCC) of the New People’s Army (NPA) claimed responsibility over the attacks on Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company facilities in Mankayan, Benguet late evening of June 7 and early dawn of June 8.

In a joint statement sent to the media, the NPA commands said the attacks were part of their continuing campaign to punish destructive and large scale mines like Lepanto as well as government troops for acting as the company’s security guards.

The CMC operates in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions while the JCC operates in Benguet Province.

The Philippine National Police in Mankayan earlier said that the gates of the LCMC Tailings Dam were attacked by armed men at 10:36 p.m., followed by a 10:46 p.m. attack on a chemical and mineral laboratory in Colalo village.

At 4 a.m., the police discovered that the armed men detonated explosives to destroy a police outpost, a backhoe and a copper processing machine.

Lepanto security personnel and soldiers claimed they drove back the rebels after the attackers succeeded in blasting a lime mixing plant and a bulldozer.

Police said two explosive devices attached to two dump trucks failed to set off.

Workers who witnessed the attack there said 7 armed men and a woman raided the facility.

Residents heard gunfire ring out followed by blasts near the mine site after midnight, Mankayan Mayor Materno Luspian for his part said.

Luspian said he was also informed of the firefight in Colalo.

According to the NPA, Lepanto land grabbed tens of hectares of rice fields in 1990 between Cabiten and Colalo villages where it built its Tailings Dam 5A despite widespread protest.

Second attack

In April 25, 2013 the NPA also torched Lepanto’s drilling machine in Colalo village. At the time, Lepanto was planning to build its Tailings Dam 5B.

The NPA said they attacked soldiers under the 81st IB of the Philippine Army stationed near Tailings Dam 5A.

They claimed the government troops were being used to violently quell people’s opposition against the raising of the tailing dam’s embankment.

Aside from the attack at the tailings dam area, the NPA also destroyed the carbon-in-pulp (CIP) cyanide processing plant owned by Colalo Barangay Captain Ambino Padawi.

They also burned a backhoe and other equipment in the said plant.

The guerillas also blasted the Community Police Action Center (Compac) beside the CIP.

The NPA accused Padawi of taking away the ancestral land of a clan and built the CIP on it despite the protests by other residents. # (Kimberlie Quitasol of Northern Dispatch for Kodao Productions/Featured photo by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Caring and dying for their land

(Datu Jimboy singing)

This was not a party, more so a karaoke party that Filipinos are known for.  The song was not about love or any other ordinary ditty. The venue was not in a bar nor a concert hall and the singer is not a pop star.

The occassion was a solidarity event among the Lumad, the indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao.  The song was about the Lumad’s struggle to defend their land from unrelenting militarization and encroachment by mining companies.  The venue was in an evacuation center where 54 families are currently living in tents and where children are pounded by rain and cold weather.  The singer is a warrior chieftain who leads his people’s struggle for self determination and just peace. Read more