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Kodao’s photo essay wins Gawad Agong 2016

A KODAO PRODUCTIONS photo essay on Manilakbayan 2015 won at the Fourth Gawad Agong para sa Pamamahayag (Agong Award for Journalism) held last December 20 during the at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

Raymund Villanueva’s “Bonicris Mandagit: A Manobo bead crafter” published last November 2015 was adjudged as this year’s best photo essay.

(Read: Bonicris Mandagit: A Manobo bead crafter)

Agong’s awarding ceremonies were held during the Grand Cultural Night of the Pambansang Lakbayan ng mga Pambansang Minorya 2016 at the UP Campus Management Office Grounds.

Gawad Agong is given by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU) and the Indigenous Voices in Asia-Philippines to journalists and media organizations who produce outstanding reports on Philippine indigenous peoples struggles and welfare.

“Agong” is a traditional Philippine indigenous people’s musical instrument that has come to symbolize the national minorities’ struggle for self-determination.

Adjudged this year’s best were the following:

  • Vincent Go, Union of Catholic Asian News, Gawad Agong para sa Photojournalism
  • Raymund B. Villanueva, Kodao Productions, Gawad Agong para sa Photo Essay
  • Benjie Alejandro, DZBB, Gawad Agong para sa Mamamahayag sa Radyo
  • Desiree Caluza, Vera Files, Gawad Agong para sa Print at Online
  • Lian Nami Buan, subselfie.com, Gawad Agong para sa Dokumentaryo
  • Hon Sofia Balod, Saksi GMA 7, Gawad Agong para sa Balita at Telebisyon
  • Northern Dispatch Weekly, Gawad Agong ng Pagkilala sa Natatanging Katutubong Midya
  • Kilab Multimedia, Gawad Agong ng Pagkilala para sa Natatanging Grupong Pangkultura

The award is Villanueva and Kodao’s third Agong first place award, following last year’s best radio program and another best photo essay honors.  Villanueva shared his best radio program award last year with his erstwhile Veritas 846 “Tala-Akayan” program co-host Fr. Delfo Canceran, OP and Kodao co-producers Promotion of Church People’s Response and Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan.

Villanueva has also been given the Gawad Agong “Natatanging Katutubong Mamamahayag” (Outstanding Indigenous Journalist) award last year, being a member of Cagayan Valley’s indigenous group Ybanag.

A news writer and editor, photographer, radio broadcaster, poet and filmmaker, Villanueva is also the recipient of the Titus Brandsma Award for Emerging Leadership in Journalism last year. # (Featured photo by Ray ‘Bogsi’ Panaligan)

STREETWISE by Carol P Araullo: Pavlovian Reflex

It was shockingly painful to watch the video footage of a police van mowing down protesting indigenous and Moro people in front of the US embassy last Wednesday.  The rabid zeal and brutally with which the police used their might to inflict injury on anyone they could lay their hands on and arrest as many as they could (including those already hurt and the First Aid team of doctors and nurses attempting to attend to the wounded) was all too familiar yet still disturbing if not revolting.

Another case of police over zealousness in protecting the US embassy? The usual small, unruly crowd of youth activists getting out of hand and requiring more stringent and forceful police crowd management? In fact, no.

The demonstrators easily numbered more than a thousand composed of the different tribes of Lumad and Moros from Mindanao, Igorots from the Cordillera, Dumagats from Southern Tagalog, Aetas from Central Luzon and even Tumandok from Panay.  They were joined by a smaller number of supporters from Metro Manila coming from different sectors including students, workers and urban poor.

They caught the police contingent providing perimeter security for the embassy by surprise and were able to maneuver to get as close to the embassy walls as possible, of course with a lot of shoving and shouting.  They painted the pristine walls red with slogans such as “Go Duterte! Junk EDCA!” and “Yankee go home!”

When the dust had settled, the police, some of them splattered with red paint, resigned themselves to the situation and allowed the demonstrators to hold their almost 2-hour long program in peace.

As the protesters wound up their program of speeches and cultural numbers, a certain Col. Pedroza arrived.  He berated his men for allowing the demonstrators to get the better of them without putting up a fight and allowing him to lose face with US embassy officials.  He then ordered a completely unwarranted violent dispersal of the protest action that was already about to end without further incident.

Several questions have come to fore as culled from social media.  The standard one, “Weren’t the demonstrators asking for it?  Didn’t they ‘provoke’ the police?”  From many witnesses and raw video footages, it is clear that the initial confrontation occurred when the demonstrators asserted their right to bring their message to the very threshold of the embassy.  They succeeded to do so by overpowering the police phalanx with their sheer size and militance.

Immediately they were able to splash red paint on the US embassy seal and paint their slogans on the embassy walls as an expression of rage and protest at the Almighty US of A — self-appointed global policeman and number one instigator of wars of aggression and intervention worldwide — again despite the efforts of the police to prevent them.

Having done so and entrenching their ranks in front of the embassy, the demonstrators quieted down and held their protest program. The police too settled down, held their peace and watched the demonstrators from where they had ensconced.

So what had “provoked” the police was the order of their commander to unleash their maximum intolerance for citizens exercising their right to air their grievances so that US embassy officials could be reassured the police were doing their job.  The Pavlovian reflex took over the police forces, having been oriented, trained, equipped and constantly sicced on protesting citizens to protect the status quo, the oligarchy and their foreign overlords.  The real nature of the PNP as protector of the neocolonial state, especially its power centers like Malacañang and the US embassy, was on full display.

But aren’t the police under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte even faintly aware that their Commander-in-Chief is no longer the unmitigated “Amboy” (American Boy) that all previous presidents since so-called independence have been? At the rate Duterte has been raining expletives on the mighty USA, including its President and the US State Department, while elucidating his concept of an independent foreign policy, more mass protests at the embassy should and could have been anticipated and police response adjusted accordingly.

Unfortunately, the puppet and fascist character of the PNP is so ingrained, it will take a major and determined overhaul to change it.  (It doesn’t help that the PNP is getting carte blanche in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs where abuse of power, extrajudicial short cuts, corruption and impunity are still very much in evidence.)

But there are netizens who are alternately perplexed and aghast why there were indigenous people and Moros demonstrating against US imperialism at the embassy.  Was that their issue? Weren’t their legitimate issues about defending their ancestral lands from interlopers or even the killings traced to paramilitary units and even military forces themselves.  Shouldn’t they be at the DENR protesting corporate mining or at the AFP camps calling for en end to militarization.  Why the US embassy? (They, in fact, had already been to the DENR and Camp Aguinaldo military camp.)

There were even some who imputed that the Left, perennial protestors at the US embassy, had hoodwinked and somehow manipulated the contingents of national minorities to do their bidding and “riot” at the US embassy.

They who had trekked thousands of miles from north to south of the archipelago in what they had dubbed “Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan” (Journey of National Minorities for Self-determination and a Just Peace) were presumed too politically naive and shallow to grasp how US imperialism affects them and so they had to be “tricked” to protest at the US embassy.

Wrong.  Contrary to the common city goers’ misconception, the lumad for one have educated themselves, primarily by their own efforts, setting up at least 146 schools in various communities all over Mindanao.  These schools have been targets of brutal attacks by the military mainly because they have effectively equipped the lumad with the tools to study and understand their situation and to fight for their rights.

Speaker after speaker from among their ranks have clearly articulated the relationship between the encroachments on their lands by multinational mining companies and agribusinesses, the plunder of natural resources and wanton destruction of the environment, and the grievous violations of their rights to US imperialism and its strongest tentacles among the AFP and PNP.

They spoke of the US-patterned, instigated, funded and directed counter-insurgency programs, including the latest Oplan Bayanihan, as behind the militarization of their communities, the divide-and-rule tactic of arming paramilitaries recruited from among them to do the dirty work of terrorizing their communities in order to drive them away from their communal lands so that the foreign corporate interests and their domestic partners could take over.

The indigenous peoples and Moros have the historical and practical experience of struggling against colonial subjugation and neocolonial oppression and exploitation.  Thus they have sharpened their understanding of the root causes of their abject condition and what they must do to regain their dignity as a people, to exercise their right to self-determination and to live their lives under the ascendance of a just peace. #

(Featured image by Amel Sabangan/Kodao Productions)

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IPs march to Mendiola to press fight for self-determination

Indigenous peoples who are participating in the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2016 marched to Mendiola, Manila last October 20 to press their fight for self-determination.

The march was also in condemnation of the brutal dispersal of their rally in front of the United States Embassy the previous day.

The indigenous peoples formed a new national alliance called SANDUGO, which opposes US imperialism that they claim violates their collective and individual human rights. Read more

Victims of violent dispersal at US embassy demand justice

PROGRESSIVE organizations demanded justice for the victims of the brutal police dispersal of protesting indigenous peoples in front of the United States Embassy in Manila Wednesday morning (October 19).

In a press conference held last October 20 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the groups called on President Rodrigo Duterte and Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa to take action and punish Manila Police District officers for their violence against the victims.

According to Makabayan vice chairperson Neri Colmenares, Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo and PO3 Franklin Kho as well as other MPD personnel are guilty of violating Batas Pambansa (BP) 880 and of attempted murder.

“BP880 is about illegal assembly.  But there is nothing in it that allows the use of brutal methods. Does a group not having a permit make it alright to violently disperse them?” Colmenares asked.

“That kind of behavior is illegal, especially with the way they manhandled medics, minors and (members of the) media. The Manila police are clearly guilty of violating the same law they are trying to use against the rallyists,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares added, “BP880 states that you cannot file a case against a participant of a rally. You can do so against a leader, but not a simple participant like how they tried with this protest.”

“The fact that there was premeditation, superior strength and even treachery in play also means we can also charge them with attempted murder – at the very least,” Colmenares said.

The Makabayan bloc has filed a resolution to investigate the incident and condemning the police force for the violence. Progressive groups also call for accountability and firing of the policemen involved.

Police brutality

The protest was about to conclude when Pedrozo ordered the dispersal of the rally and the arrest of its participants, in violation of the agreement between the police and the ralyists before his arrival.

The police then fired teargas and began clubbing the demonstrators.

A police mobile unit, driven by Kho, ran over rallyists several times.

Police officers then proceeded to violently pursue, harass and arrest demonstrators, medics, media personnel and even bystanders filming the events.

At least 50 were injured, 18 of whom needed hospitalization.  At least 20 were arrested, including five medics, two minors and one media practitioner.

The arrested were released after at least three hours at MPD Precinct 5 along United Nations Avenue.

PNP’s lies

The PNP claimed that the violence was unintended, the protesters did not have a permit and who incited the violence.

PO3 Kho, for his part, said he did not intentionally run over the protesters whom he accused of trying to steal the police vehicle.

Their victims, however, presented video footage from various media outfits which they said showed Kho’s criminal intent to maim or kill as well as of Pedrozo ordering the dispersal and arrests for the MPD to save face with the US embassy.

According to Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, there was no provocation from their side.

“We were down to our final speaker, but Pedrozo showed up and said that the police had shamed the US embassy, that the rally must be dispersed and that there must be arrests,” Reyes said.

“There were even policemen who hesitated to act because they understood that violence was senseless as the protest was peaceful and ending anyway. They were not provoked. They attacked first under Pedrozo’s orders,” Reyes said.

Reyes said they believe there was no need for a permit to protest.

“President Duterte has been fine with it all this time. Besides, we had been protesting for over an hour by the time they began their assault,” he said.

Colmenares added that the videos showed that the police violence was premeditated.

“In the videos, Pedrozo clearly ordered to disperse the rally, with or without provocation, because they would apparently shame themselves with the US embassy by allowing the rally to go for so long,” he said.

“Is Pedrozo ashamed, then, of President Duterte for condemning the US, telling Obama to go to hell, pursuing a strong foreign independent foreign policy?” Colmenares asked.

Why protest?

Majority of the protesters were indigenous peoples and Moro participants of the ongoing Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2016 who travelled to Manila to demand for respect of their right to self-determination over their ancestral domains and culture.

They were joined by progressive organizations led by Bayan as they also called for the immediate pullout of US military forces and corporate interests from their lands, as well as to express support for president Rodrigo Duterte’s call for an independent foreign policy.

“We have experienced the imperialism of the US, the massacres of our people and those who fight for us. This is why we were at the US embassy yesterday,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson for the newly-formed indigenous peoples alliance Sandugo, said.

“We have been dishonored and brought to poverty by the control and meddling of the US in our areas,” Malayao, who was among those run over by Kho, added.

“We already face brutality and violence in our communities. Why must we be confronted with violence in the city as well, when we were only asserting our rights?” she lamented. # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)

OFWs in Italy condemn ‘inhumane’ dispersal of IPs in Manila

ROME, ITALY- Members of Umangat-Migrante, ICHRP-Rome and the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino (Italy-Philippine Friendship Association) held a candle light protest in front of the Philippine Embassy last night to condemn the recent dispersals of mass actions in the Philippines.

Calling the dispersals “violent and inhumane,” Luciano Seller of the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino urged the Philippine government to look into the incident.

“Indigenous people in the Philippines have suffered enough with military occupation in their communities, only to meet more ruthlessness and violence from the Manila police when they are holding a peaceful protest,” Seller said.

Alex Reyes, Secretary General of Umangat-Migrante expressed anger at how the police continue to act as “lapdogs of the US’ while President Duterte himself is calling for an independent foreign policy.

“It is time that the Philippine police learn to protect and serve the Filipino people instead of protecting US interests,” Reyes said. # (Pom Cahilog-Villanueva)

Police car rams through protesters; 50 injured

The Manila Police District violently dispersed indigenous peoples protesters this morning after its deputy director Marcelino Pedrozo ordered his troops to arrest and “fight back,” lest they lose face with the US Embassy.

This video shows an MPD vehicle ramming and running over at least ten protesters. Read more

50 injured as police vehicle rams IP protesters

By Abril Layad B. Ayroso / Photos by Reggie Mamangun

AT LEAST 50 were injured when a Manila Police District vehicle rammed indigenous peoples protesters in a violent dispersal at the United States Embassy in Manila this morning.

After being surrounded by protesters, a police vehicle with license plate SAA 5553 and National Capital Region Police Office markings backed up at high speed, apparently intent on hitting the victims.

After several meters, the vehicle accelerated forward and ran over protesters before backing up again, scattering activists trying to escape its rampage.

According to rights group Karapatan, 31 were also arrested, including two Lumad minors, after Superintendent Marcelino DL Pedrozo of the MPD ordered the dispersal.

Organizers of the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2016 said Pedrozo showed up at the rally already enraged and immediately ordered the arrest of the protesters.

Under Pedrozo’s orders, the police began pushing back the protesters that immediately became violent as the police fired tear gas at the retreating activists.

Some protesters who tried escaping through and around Plaza Salamanca across the embassy were violently apprehended, with the police even chasing and clubbing the fleeing protesters’ vehicles.

The violent dispersal is the second in two days after the group was also violently blasted with water cannons at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City yesterday.

Immediate condemnation

The violent dispersal immediately received condemnations from various human rights and indigenous peoples groups.

“We condemn the Manila Police District, and call on President Rodrigo Duterte himself to address this enraging incident, which has even surpassed the water cannon incident yesterday at Camp Aguinaldo,” Jerome Succor Aba, Suara Bangsamoro national spokesperson said.

“Is this how the government treats its national minorities? Is this the answer to our plea to stand up for national sovereignty and protect the interests of national minorities from the claws of Washington?” Aba asked.

Dulping Ogan, secretary-general of Kalumaran, blamed the US for the violent dispersal.

“The US can even order our police to attack our own people just to protect its embassy. This is a clear display of power, and highlights the urgency of our call to pull out US forces from the Philippines, especially in our ancestral lands,” Ogan said.

“Here in Manila, our calls are met with water cannons, and now teargas and brute force. In our ancestral communities, the attacks are far worse: we all know of the repeated cases of murders against our kin. Everywhere we turn, we Lumads and other national minorities are brutalized. Yet we will remain defiant. No amount of police brutality can dent the indefatigable and united spirit of the national minorities,” Ogan said.

The protesters proceeded to the Manila Police District headquarters to demand for the release of the arrested activists and condemn the police for the violent dispersal.

They are also demanding accountability from Pedrozo for using excessive force during the dispersal.

The national minorities travelled to Metro Manila to assert their rights to ancestral domain and self-determination as well as to demand the removal of US military and corporate presence from indigenous lands.

The struggle of the national minorities

During their rally, leaders of national minority groups spoke of abuses by the military who they accuse of acting as mercenaries of the US government and foreign corporations.

They said the militarization to their communities goes along with the destruction of the environment and their ancestral domains.

“Every single time the Americans show up, we can’t sleep, hunt or even eat in peace when they are so close to our communities,” Sonny Serrano of the Central Luzon Aeta Association said.

“The US Embassy and the military allow US soldiers to get away with crimes against indigenous people. Why must we tolerate such a system that puts Americans over indigenous peoples?” Serrano added.

Aba, for his part, added that the US not only promotes the destruction of the environment but also the discrimination on national minorities.

The Moro people of Mindanao fought the Americans to defend their ancestral domains that led to the Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak massacres where hundreds were massacred by US troops.

“They keep calling us Muslims terrorists, but who is the real terrorist here? Who has committed so many crimes against the people of the Philippines?” Aba added.

The US military is currently present in Mindanao, who President Duterte said must leave as soon as possible. # (With reports by Raymund B. Villanueva and Divine C. Miranda)

Police vehicle rams through indigenous peoples protesters in front of the US Embassy.

Police vehicle rams through and runs over indigenous peoples protesters in front of the US Embassy.

Katribu leader and Sandugo convenor Pia Macliing Malayao lies on the ground after being hit by the police vehicle.

Katribu leader and Sandugo convenor Pia Macliing Malayao lies on the ground during violent dispersal.

A protester bleeds after being clubbed by the police.

A protester bleeds after being clubbed by the police.

Injured and bleeding protesters being accosted by the police.

Injured and bleeding protesters being accosted by the police.

 

 

Indigenous peoples stage Salubungan 2016 in Mendiola

To start Manilakbayan 2016, indigenous peoples (IPs) from all over the Philippines staged Salubungan (Meet Up) last October 13 in Mendiola, Manila.

Demanding respect for their right to self determination, the IPs scored the continuing harassments and killings in their communities perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The fifth staging of Manilakbayan is participated in by at least three thousand IPs. Read more

Datu Jemboy Mandagit: A Warrior Datu for peace

A special report by Raymund B. Villanueva

WARRIOR Datu Jemboy Mandagit was among the leaders of the 40,000-strong rally outside the House of Representatives summoned by President Rodrigo Duterte for an audience with him after his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Like tens of millions of Filipinos, the young Warrior Datu thought change would finally come or, at least, the Lumad killings would stop.  It was after all a campaign promise fellow Mindanaoan Duterte uttered several times in the past months.

Along with 3,000 fellow Lumads and peasants from all over Mindanao, Datu Jemboy went to Manila hoping to witness peace dawning in the Lumad’s ancestral domains.  He remembers the exact moment in the SONA when Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army, the revolutionary group Mandagit was falsely accused of being a member.  It was totally unexpected then that yet another nightmare would visit Datu Jemboy’s community shortly after, one that would again send his own people scampering for safety.

Five days after the President’s SONA, Datu Jemboy’s community was attacked. A pregnant woman and the child in her womb was killed while seven others were injured.

Just a day after the indigenous leader of a very remote community met Duterte within the enclave of the country’s political elite, Alde “Butsoy” Salusad, leader of the so-called New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR), had been circling Datu Jemboy’s territory.  He spent three days at nearby Sitio Spring, looking for Datu Jemboy and issuing threats.

A traditional Tigwahanon Manobo wedding was being celebrated at Datu Jemboy’s community of Sitio Tibugawan, Barangay Kawayan in San Fernando, Bukidnon that Saturday morning of July 30.  But the day started uneasy.

A tragic wedding

At dawn, Butsoy appeared on a hill near Sitio Tibugawan and accosted residents Jason Pangantagan, 35 years old; Okking Sidon, 20; and his own relative Jaime Salusad, 40.  He ordered the three tied up and barked a forbidding threat: “If I do not kill Jemboy or I do not kill anyone in Tibugawan today, it would have to be you three.”

Butsoy then approached the community, accompanied by 12 members of the Civilian Auxilliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under the 68th Infantry Battallions of the Philippine Army, among them a certain Ronald Cabantao.  They were wearing jungle fatigues and was armed to the teeth.

Before they could enter the community, they came across Barangay Kawayan Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Arnold Manhura who begged him not to proceed to Sitio Tibugawan and let the wedding celebration be.  Butsoy told him he and his band won’t be long.  They would only be in the sitio for 10 short minutes, he said.  The IPMR, frightened by the menacing men and guns before him, assented.

Then shots rang out at nine o’clock that morning.

Makinit Gayoran, six months pregnant and carrying her nine-month old baby, was killed when a bullet pierced her torso.  Seven others were wounded, five of whom were minors and students of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region Literacy and Numeracy School. Two other community members, Kambo Bangonan and Boras Sedong, were also wounded in the incident.  A 60-year old indigenous leader was the eighth victim, Datu Daparapa, who was hit on his right toe.

Witnesses saw Butsoy was among those who peppered the house where the celebration was being held with submachine gun fire for 10 minutes from 50 meters away. Eighty families of Sitio Tibugawan and nearby communities fled and are now encamped at the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol grounds in Malaybalay City.

Duterte’s short-lived ceasefire order was in effect when Butsoy and the government forces killed Gayoran and her child and injured seven others.

It was only 11 days after the incident that Datu Jemboy was able to go back to Bukidnon.  He first saw his wife Pedela and their infant son again at the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital, the boy having gotten sick at the encampment.

Warrior Datu for peace

Datu Jemboy is but 25 years old.  He took on life at a young age, customary among the Tigwahanon Manobos.

He entered into an arranged marriage with his wife Pedela when he was 10 years old and she, nine years old.  They have five sons, the eldest now 11 and the youngest still an infant.

As soon as he could trek the treacherous paths to other communities, his paternal grandfather Ramun Mandagit took him along to teach him the ways of a Warrior Datu.  The elder Mandagit has annointed him as his successor, a mantle he took in 2005 when Datu Ramun died.

Ako ang tanging pinili ng 11 na Tribal Datus ng aming lugar, kasi iyon ang gusto ni Datu Ramun.  Ako lang ang sinanay niya na susunod na Warrior Datu,” Datu Jemboy said (I was unanimously elected by the 11 Community Datus of our territory, because it was the wish of Datu Ramun.  I was the only one he trained to be his successor.)

He now leads  11 communities that straddle Bukidnon and Davao City under the indigenous organization KASILO (Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan, a Lumad organization in Bukidnon) with around 4,000 individual members.

A Warrior Datu must be brave, Datu Jemboy said.  He must be willing to scale mountains and ford rivers even at night to settle disputes as soon as possible.  He must be able to gather the community Datus regularly and unite them in major decisions.

“Maraming problema ang inaayos ng Warrior Datu.  May patayan, agawan ng asawa, agawan ng lupa,” Datu Jemboy said.  (There are many problems that need a Datu Warrior’s attention.  These range from killings, wife-snatching, landgrabbing.)  Datu Jemboy succeeds in placating the agrieved parties with traditional preferred defrayals such as horses and hunting rifles.  When an agreement is reached, he leads both parties and the communities in the panumpa (pledging) and tampuda (peace pact).  “Iyan, hindi na mababali,” Datu Jemboy said.  (The panumpa and tampuda are inviolable.)

There has not been a dispute that has escalated into a clan or tribal war among the 11 Tigwahanon Manobo communities of San Fernando and Davao in Datu Jemboy’s 11-year leadership.  Neither has he gone to war with other tribes.  He has made his Warrior Datu title a misnomer.

Datu of the mountains

But Tigwahanon Manobos—originally a riverine tribe but who have been driven up the mountains over the years—have not been been left in peace by outsiders for a long time now.  Their peace is often shattered by incursions of logging and mining companies as well as the militarization that invariably accompanies them.

Two mining companies, San Christo Mineral Exploration Corporation and Apex Mining Company, Inc. had explored for gold in Datu Jemboy’s ancestral lands.  This, after outsiders learned that gold nuggets are often found in Tigwahanon Manobo’s streams and rivers.

Datu Jemboy’s community has consistently stood up against mining. Roger Plana, secretary general of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, said their opposition became even stronger after Butsoy killed then KASILO vice-chairperson Datu Jimmy Liguyon in March 2012.

Liguyon, a Matigsalug Manobo and Barangay Captain of Dao in San Fernando was killed in front of his house.  Butsoy, a relative of Liguyon, has repeatedly boasted it was him who killed the Datu and government official.

The Philippine government has been using Lumad to sow terror among fellow Lumad.  The Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government launched its Investment Defense Force with rebel-surrenderees and Lumad armed groups acting as private armies for mining, logging and plantation companies. This gave rise to the proliferation of paramilitary groups such as Alamara, Magahat-Bagani Force and Salusad’s NIPAR.  They also function as auxilliaries to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterinsurgency program euphemistically called the Oplan (Operation Plan) Bayanihan-Internal Security Plan.  In exchange for their mercenary activities, they are enticed with regular pay or small mining activities they themselves could operate.

In Salusad’s case, he is allowed to collect commissions from San Fernando’s gold mining and trade.  He is even called a “peacemaker” by government agencies, awarding him with a mantle of legality and respectability despite multiple criminal charges for murder.

But while Butsoy seems to have his way with the AFP and the Philippine National Police, he is vigorously opposed by other Lumads.

“Pinoprotekhan namin ang aming mga bundok at gubat dahil ito ang aming ospital at palengke.  Sa mga ito namin kinukuha ang aming mga gamot kapag kami ay nagkakasakit at dito rin namin kinukuha ang marami sa aming pagkain.  Wala namang ospital na malapit sa amin,” Datu Jemboy said.  (We protect our mountains and forests because these are our hospital and marketplace.  We gather our medicines from these when we get sick, and many of our food.  There are no hospitals near our communities.)

On their farmlands, the Tigwahanon Manobos plant upland rice, bananas and root crops like cassava and sweet potatoes.  They gather and process the fiber from wild abaca plants as one of their main cash products.  They are financially poor but they do not bother the government too much about their simple existence.  Mostly, they just want to be left alone.

Warrior Datu in the cities

Following intense militarization in their communities in July 2015 and Butsoy’s many threats against him, Datu Jemboy led his people in a forced evacuation to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines compound in Haran, Davao City.

In Davao City, Datu Jemboy became one of the main leaders and spokesperson of the various groups that have sought shelter at the evacuation center.  His leadership qualities shone when he took on the likes of North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco who led police-aided raids at the Haran sanctuary to force the Lumads back to their communities.

“Magaling magsalita si Datu Jemboy, hindi nahihiya.  Marunong siyang mag-Cebuanon at mag-Filipino.  Hindi rin siya natatakot sa psychological warfare ng militar at ni Butsoy,” Plana said of the Datu.  (Datu Jemboy is a good speaker and is not shy.  He knows Cebuano and Filipino.  He is not afraid of the threats and the psychological warfare against him by the military and Butsoy.)

Plana adds that the Lumad are often seen as timid by lowlanders.  But Datu Jemboy has transcended their usual shyness because he is defending his people and their ancestral domain.

“Kasi, kung wasak na ang bundok at wala nang mga puno, wasak na rin ang kultura naming mga katutubo.  Sa aming lupang ninuno namin pina-praktis ang aming kultura, politika at ekonomiya.  Hindi na kami pwedeng tawaging Lumad kung sa basurahan na kami nakatira,” Plana said. (If the mountains are destroyed and our forests are gone, our cultures are also destroyed.  We can only practice our cultural, political and economic traditions in our ancestral domains.  We cannot be called Lumads if we already live in garbage dumps.)

It was not only in Davao City that Datu Jemboy displayed his mettle.  He was among the Datus who led the cross-country Manilakbayan 2015 and 2016 that travelled from the hinterlands of Mindanao to Metro Manila, the political and economic center of the country.  On the streets of the seething capital, the Lumad forced millions of Filipinos to become aware of their struggles and their bravery.  Never will the Lumad’s defense of their ancestral lands be ignored again.

On December 20, 2015, Datu Jemboy led his people back to Sitio Tibugawan in the hope that they could go back to their lands in peace.  They cleared the farms and planted rice and corn.  Then El Niño withered their crops away until a State of Calamity had to be declared. Still, the Tigwahanon Manobos tried to rebuild and hoped to live in peace.

And then July 30 happened.

This time, Datu Jemboy said they will not go back to San Fernando while Butsoy remains free.  He still leads the resistance against accusations by Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri that their forced evacuation is fake.

“Sabi pa sa amin, bayaran na lang daw ng P150,000 yung pamilya ng namatay at P25,000 ang ibibigay naman sa mga nasugatan.  Hindi lamang pera ang kapalit ng aming buhay.  Kailangang hulihin ng mga pulis si Butsoy.  Nasa Sitio Kiranggol lang siya,” Datu Jemboy said.  (We were even told that they will just give P150,000 to the family of the killed victim and P25,000 for each of the injured.  Money cannot compensate for the lost lives of our tribes people. Butsoy must also be arrested.  He is just in Sitio Kiranggol.)

In April 2012, a local court issued a warrant of arrest against Butsoy for the murder of Liguyon but authorities have not arrested him.

The Tigwahanon Manobos’ Warrior Datu’s voice rings clear: “Ipapakita namin kay Governor Zubiri na hindi kami buang para mag-bakwit sa syudad ng walang dahilan. Lalaban kami sa kanila.  Hindi kami papayag na patayin nila kami sa gutom at walang kalaban-laban.” (We will show Governor Zubiri that we are not crazy to evacuate to the city without reason.  We will fight them.  We will not allow them to just kill us by hapless starvation without giving a fight.) #

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This special report was originally published by the MINDANAO INTERFAITH INSTITUTE FOR LUMAD STUDIES with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the RMP-NMR Inc and the “Healing the Hurt” Project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

MINDANAO INTERFAITH INSTITUTE FOR LUMAD STUDIES is part of the Healing the Hurt Project supported by the European Union.

Land grabbing endangers PH agri productivity–experts

FOOD security activists challenged the Rodrigo Duterte government to end land grabbing activities against farmers and indigenous peoples in a conference last August 1 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The Philippine Network of Security Food Programmes, Inc. (PNSFP) presented cases of land grabbing throughout the country, as well as their campaigns and mass actions.

Agricultural land in the Philippines decreased by 2.785 million hectares from 5.4 million from 2002 to 2012 due to land grabbing and the subsequent conversion of agricultural lands for other uses, such as mining and Special Economic Zones,  PNSFP advocacy officer Sharlene Lopez said.

She added that the Philippines’ agricultural productivity, rural communities and environment are increasingly at risk if land grabbing continues.

According to PNFSP studies, many land grabbing victims were deceived by the promise of fortune into planting cash crops like rubber or oil palm.

Others were forcibly displaced by militarization or “projects” by either the local government or big businesses.

Many also end up having no choice but to work at cash crop plantations for less than the minimum wage.

A panel of government reactors from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the National Anti-Poverty Commission transition team, the Office of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, the House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Food Security and HOR Committee on Agrarian Reform said their respective departments would try their best to return the farmlands and ancestral domains to the people.

Despite their assurances, however, Niklas Reese of the Philippine Bureau-Germany encouraged the participants to continue their advocacy against land grabbing.

“We have to be aware that the change of administration doesn’t change the nature of capitalism. We have to be vigilant; we have to be aware,” he said.

Reese added that the government should also to prosecute land grabbers.

“The role of social movements like this one is not just for demanding change, but accountability from the government as well,” Resse said. # (By Abril Layad B. Ayroso)