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Martial law in Mindanao victimizes more Lumad children—NDFP

President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, extended for the second straight year this 2019, continues to wreak havoc in the lives of Lumad children, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Southern Mindanao Region said.

In a statement posted on its website today, the NDFP reported that a platoon of the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army accosted and seized 17-year old Loujean Antian Lumbatan, a Grade 7 student of Sinuda High School, and 10-year old Ara Mystica Antian Pangcat, a Grade 5 student of Cabalansihan Elementary School at Sitio Sanggiapo, Brgy Sinuda, Kitaotao in Bukidnon province at around 11:00 in the morning last February 18.

“For no apparent reason, the two unarmed Lumad minors were arrested and held incommunicado at the unit’s camp in Sitio Sanggiapo between 11:00 in the morning and 11:00 in the evening,” the NDFP said.

Early in the afternoon, the parents and some relatives searched frantically for the missing children and proceeded to confront the soldiers but were turned away by the soldiers who insisted they knew nothing of the children’s whereabouts, the group added.

The girls were released in the afternoon of the next day, February 19, but not after being subjected to harrowing interrogation and were brought to the 88th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Maramag, the NDFP said.

The girls reported that they could hear their parent’s voices outside the camp in Sitio Sanggiapo but were warned by the soldiers not to make any sound.

When confronted why they arrested and detained the two girls, the soldiers reportedly claimed they were only after “the[ir] safety,” the NDFP said. 

The Bukidnon incident followed the January 30 seizure of two toddlers, a one-year old and a two-year old, and their subsequent forced separation from their parents and guardians by AFP and PNP troops following a raid on the office of the Misamis Oriental Peasants Association (MOFA) in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, the group said.

“In Lumad areas in Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and elsewhere in the Southern Mindanao, bombings, shelling and indiscriminate firing within populated communities by AFP troops and their paramilitaries Bagani and Alamara have terrorized hundreds of children,” the NDFP said in its statement. 

The NDFP also scored the arrest of three civilians of the 71st IB last February 20 at Sitio Binogsayan, Brgy. Napnapan in Pantukan town.

Eddie Avila, Graciano Embalsado and Pulpy Lariwan were later forced to “surrender” as members of the New People’s Army (NPA), even as local government officials insisted that the three were in fact civilians, Rubi del Mundo, NDFP-SMR spokesperson said.

‘Localized peace talks’

But Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Eduardo Año said the so-called surrenders are real that stem from the continuing success of localized peace talks between local government officials and the revolutionary groups.

“Dahil sa sipag at pagpupursigi ng ating mga local officials, natanggal na ang kaliskis sa mga mata ng mga dating rebelde at naliwanagan na sila,” Año said in a statement posted on the DILG website today, citing the reported surrender of more than 200 alleged Communist supporters in Negros Island last month.

The DILG secretary claimed the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict by Duterte will also lead to more rebel surrenders because of its focus on localized peace engagements.

Año also said DILG’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) has disbursed around P488 million in 2018to aid former rebels and their immediate family members

‘PR stunts’

The NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, however, dismissed government’s claims, saying so-called peace and development outreach programs by the Duterte administration are mere public relations stunts that are part of its psychological war tactics.

“They are in fact mere PR stunts which hold neither a grain of truth nor reflect the sentiments of thousands of Lumad who continue to be victimized by the US-Duterte regime’s hated martial law,” Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesperson, said.

Sanchez added it eludes common sense that the Lumad and the peasants should support government troops when it is they who seek to destroy their way of living, sell ancestral land to greedy and exploitative capitalists threaten or kill those who opposes them. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kampuhan ng mga manggagawang agrikultural, dinepensahan ng kolektibong pagluluto

Ni Roge Gonzales

Nitong Pebrero 10 ng umaga, sa pangunguna ng Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), inilunsad ang Luto! Laban! Sunday Cookout para sa NAMASUFA sa Liwasang Bonifacio, Maynila.

Tumungo ang mga artistang alyado ng SAKA at mga boluntaryo mula sa industriya ng sining, kultura, at kaalaman sa protest camp ng Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA), ang union ng mga manggagawang agrikultural na higit apat na buwan nang nakawelga sa plantasyon ng saging dahil ayaw iregularisa ng kumpanyang Hapones na Sumitomo Fruit Corporation o Sumifru.

Naglakbay pa mula sa Compostela Valley ang 350 sa mga unyonista upang kalampagin ang nagtutulog-tulugang Department of Labor and Employment pati ang Malacañang.

Ginanap ang salo-salo isang araw bago ang takdang police dispersal at ng Manila city government sa kampuhan.

Katambal ang mga iba pang organisasyon tulad ng Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan Federation of Peasant Women, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Anakpawis Partylist atbp., layunin ng Luto! Laban! na hikayatin ang mamamayan na palakasin ang panawagan sa regularisasyon ng Sumifru workers, ipagtanggol ang kanilang kampuhan mula sa banta ng clearing operations sa utos ng Manila City Hall, at itigil ng pangulo ang pagratsada sa land-use conversion na matapos magkait ng lupa sa magsasaka ay humahantong sa pang-aabuso sa mga manggagawa ng plantasyon.

Sa katunayan, tungo sa pagtatapos ng aktibidad ay dumami ang pulis na nagdulot ng pangamba sa mga welgista.

Nakaugat ang kanilang pangamba sa ilang beses na nilang naranasang dahas ng estado mula pa sa pagpapatupad ng batas militar ni Duterte sa Mindanao.

Ugnayan ng sining at produktong agrikultural

Liban sa pag-aalay ng tanghaliang crispy tawilis, minced pork with basil, at talbos ng kamote salad ng ihinanda ng mga boluntaryo kasama ng mismong mga unyonista, dalawang palihan ang isinagawa sa protest camp.

Habang abala ang ilan sa pagluluto habang nagtatalakayan, ang mga anak ng Sumifru workers at volunteers (edad 5-8) ay nagsanay sa pagguhit samantalang ang mga manggagawa (edad 20-35) naman ay lumahok sa isang writing workshop.

Nagkaroon din ng mabilisang live sketch session ang ilang visual artist sa gitna ng kampuhan tampok ang kalihim ng unyon habang siya’y nagbabahagi ng mga karanasan.

Ang Liwasang Bonifacio ay naging lunsaran sa pagbabahaginan ng kaalaman at karanasan.

Ang drawing workshop ng mga bata ay uminog sa prompt na “pangungulila sa tahanan”, kung saan sa proseso ng pagtuturo sa mga musmos sa pagguhit ng basic shapes at pagkukulay ay ipinatimo sa kanila ang halaga ng pagbabalik-tanaw sa nakagisnan nilang buhay sa kanayunan na ibang-iba sa lungsod kung saan sila nagkakampuhan.

Mainam itong paraan upang sa maagang kamulatan ay di lamang maipakilala sa kanila ang sining ng pagguhit kundi maipaunawa rin ang ipinaglalaban ng kanilang mga magulang at mabigyan din ng oras ang kanilang mga magulang na makibahagi sa mga aktibidad nang hindi pinuproblema ang mga bata.

Karamihan sa mga iginuhit ng mga bata ay mga eksena ng kanilang pamumuhay sa bukid.

Samantala, nagbukas ang writing workshop sa pakikipagtalakayan ng mga volunteer sa Sumifru workers hinggil sa kung ano ang espesyal na ulam na kanilang hinahanda kapag dumating ang suweldo.

Nailahad ang simpleng pamumuhay ng mga manggagawa sa pagsasabing adobong manok/baboy, sinigang, at sinabawang gulay ang madalas nilang ihanda kapag may pera.

Kasama rin sa talakayan ang halaga ng kanilang produktong agrikultural na isang esensiyal na sangkap sa merkado at ekonomiya ng mundo (e.g., banana chips, halo-halo, ketchup, harina, cereals, feeds, at marami pang iba.)

Sumunod na ibinahagi ng mga manggagawa ang buong proseso at panahon ng paglikha ng produktong saging.

Sa diskusyon, lumitaw na may dalawang pangunahing pagkakahati ang proseso ng kanilang paglikha: sa “erya” o lupang sakahan, at sa planta.

Umaabot sa halos labing-isang buwan mula sa pagbubungkal, pagtatanim, pagpapalago, pag-ani tungong packaging at quality control upang makapagluwal ng export-grade na Cavendish na saging sa mga bansang Japan, Korea, China, New Zealand, Singapore, at Middle East.

Metikuluso ang proseso ng kanilang paggawa sapagkat kakailanganin pa ng tamang “calibration” ng sukat at kalidad ng mga saging (na kinaklasipika nila sa “small hands” at “big hands”). Sa kalkulasyon ng UMA, binabarat ng Sumifru ang mga manggagawa nito sa pagbibigay lamang ng P365 na arawang sahod.

Samantala, sa barat na halagang P15.75 lamang binibili ang kanilang produkto kada kilo mula sa kinontratang grower. Pero ibinebenta ito sa labas ng bansa sa halagang P212.63 kada kilo ng saging. Sa bawat ektarya ng plantasyon ng saging, tinatayang kumikita ang kumpanyang Hapones ng dagdag P18 milyon kada taon.

Isinalaysay din ng mga manggagawa ang kanilang mga saloobin hinggil sa nangyaring marahas na dispersal sa pitong strike camps sa Compostela Valley noong Oktubre 11 at ang pagpaslang ng mga militar at pulis ng kumpanya kay Danny Boy Bautista noong Oktubre 31.

Si Bautista ay isa sa mga pangunahing nagtaguyod mula noong pumutok ang welga noong Oktubre 1. Sinundan pa ito ng panununog sa kanilang union office noong Nobyembre 30 at ang intensipikasyon ng surveillance at harassment mula sa mga militar.

Hindi nakapagtataka kung gayon na natutulak ang mga manggagawa na tahasang lumaban at manindigan sapagkat maging ang payapang pamumuhay na kanilang hinahangad sa Compostela Valley ay ipinagkakait sa kanila ng estado.

Sa alab ng pakikiisa ng iba’t ibang sektor

Matapos ang masayang salo-salo sa pananghalian at kuwentuhan, nagtipon ang lahat upang maglunsad ng pangkulturang programa.

Nakiisa ang mga estudyante at guro ng Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo College, at UP Los Baños. Tumugtog ang mga musikerong sina Alyana Cabral, Mara Marasigan, at The General Strike. Sa saliw ng makabayang himig at mga mensahe ng pakikiisa mula sa mga kinatawan ng iba’t ibang sektor, naging solido ang hanay at diwa ng sama-samang tanggulan para sa Sumifru workers.

Naging tampok din ang pagtatanghal ng Sining Obrero, ang grupong pangkultura ng NAMASUFA, na inawit ang kanilang orihinal na komposisyon (Padayon, gihapon ang welga sa ComVal!) na punumpuno ng dagundong ng tapang na ipanalo ang welga sa kabila ng pangil ng pasismo.

Naging marubdob din ang pagbasa ng mga manggagawa sa kanilang obra, mga monologue, sa writing workshop.

Saad ni Justy, 25, limang taon nang packer sa plant 220 ng Sumifru, “Hindi po madali ang kalagayan ko doon sa Mindanao dahil sa martial law. Bilang isang manggagawa ay natapakan po ang aking karapatan na ibigay ang dapat sa akin. Hindi rin madali na gumising nang madaling araw upang magtrabaho tapos hindi ka pala makapasok dahil sobra na daw o over-manning. Hindi madali kapag walang katiyakan ang ganitong sistema o porma ng tinatawag na kontraktwal.”

Tagumpay ng sama-samang pagkilos

Sa pagsasara ng programa, ipinaalala ni Lisa Ito, secretary general ng CAP, na ang sitwasyon ng Sumifru workers ay nangyayari sa buong bansa. Sunod-sunod ang mga trahedyang ipinapataw ng gobyerno kamakailan sa mga maralitang manggagawa at magbubukid. Aniya, lalo pa’t hindi nakikita sa mass media ang buong kuwento ng pakikibaka ng Sumifru workers, napapanahon at nararapat ang mga pagtitipon tulad ng Luto! Laban! upang magkaroon ng boses ang mga api.

Kinabukasan ng Luto! Laban!, dalawang linggong palugit ang naipanalo ng kolektibong pagtatanggol ng NAMASUFA’t mga tagasuporta nito para manatili ang protest camp sa Liwasang Bonifacio.

Sa pahayag ng UMA, ang extension nakuha ng unyon mula sa city hall ay “bunga ng pinagsamang lakas ng manggagawa at iba’t ibang sektor na sumusuporta at naninindigan para sa kanila.”

Lalong umiigting kung gayon ang pangangailangan na makipamuhay ang mga estudyante, guro, empleyado, lalo na ang mga manggagawang pangkultura, at sa sama-samang tanggulan para sa Sumifru workers, maisulong ang makatarungang panawagan para sa sahod, benepisyo, at regular na trabaho. #

Charges against Satur and aid group has no basis–LODI

The Duterte regime has reached a new low with the filing of preposterous human trafficking and kidnapping charges against veteran journalist, activist and human rights advocate Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro as they were on a fact-finding to aid beleaguered indigenous people in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The arts and media alliance, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity demands the immediate release of Ocampo and Castro and their 17 companions.

The charges are baseless, meant to cover up the truth: That it is the paramilitary groups Alamara and Magahat Bagani, commanded by the Philippine Army, that lay waste to Lumad communities. They should be the ones facing charges as they have killed Lumad leaders, shut down schools, and driven off communities from ancestral lands that President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to business and foreign patrons.

Ocampo is a a columnist with The Philippine Star and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Bulatlat.com. He joined the 19-member National Humanitarian Mission that went to Talaingod Wednesday night to bring aid to the Lumad.

Ocampo and the rest of the mission accompanied the Lumad evacuees at the Talaingod police station to lodge complaints against the paramilitary group Alamara. To preempt the human rights case, cops concocted their lies.

The charge has no basis. The parents of 29 Lumad students provided written statements of recognition for the mission’s presence and purpose.

This afternoon, Ocampo and the others were taken to Kapalong District Hospital and eventually to the Tagum City Prosecutors Office for inquest proceedings.

We repeat: accusing Ocampo, who is all of 79 years old, of trumped-up charges of kidnapping and human trafficking is preposterous. We demand that the Talaingod PNP withdraw its charges against Satur Ocampo and he is set free immediately.

We warn the Duterte government that detaining an elderly journalist who is only acting on his convictions that are well within his rights would earn the greater condemnation of the journalistic community in the Philippines and the world. #

4 missing teachers in Philippine Army custody

A Church group said its four volunteer teachers missing since November 12 were abducted and are being detained by government soldiers in Lanao del Sur.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) today said Philippine Army troopers illegally arrested and are detaining literacy-numeracy volunteer teachers Tema Namatidong (28), Julius Torregosa (30), Ariel Barluado (22) and Giovanni Solomon (30).

Citing reports from its Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (NMR) office, RMP said that the four teachers were conducting classes on agriculture and community beautification when soldiers belonging to the 51st and 81st Infantry Battallions on board four military trucks arrived at Sitio Babalayan, Barangay Durongan, Tagoloan 2, Lanao del Sur, morning of November 12.

The soldiers were said to be looking for Sultan Jamla and Datu Langi who are community leaders in the area.

From then on, the volunteers went missing and cannot be contacted, RMP said.

On November 27, 2018, RMP-NMR and the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Iligan City were able to contact Corporal Rico Ordaneza of the 103rd Infantry Brigade who confirmed that the four are in his unit’s custody.

“We demand the immediate release of our volunteer teachers. They have been in the custody of the 103rd Brigade for 15 days– more than the prescribed number of days allowed by law that police/military personnel can detain suspected persons or persons of interests without cases filed before them,” Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP national coordinator said.

A mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), the RMP said its literacy-numeracy program in Mindanao is an effort to reach communities too far away from regular schools, and is implemented with the help of the community members.

“These volunteer teachers are helping the children of their own community. Not everyone can have the perseverance and dedication that they have. They should be treated with respect and admiration and not be harassed and persecuted, ” Belardo said.

The RMP said the incident is among the latest attacks against tribal schools, students and teachers that have intensified especially with the Mindanao-wide Martial Law still in place.

On November 17, Esteban Empong Sr., 49,  a member of a Lumad school’s Parents-Teachers Community Association was shot dead while asleep in a relative’s house in Kitaotao, Bukidnon while five students who are all minors were allegedly tortured by soldiers of the 19th IBPA while they were on their way home in Magpet, North Cotabato on November 18, the group cited.

The group also stated that that under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, one to two Lumad schools are being attacked every day with threats and harassments, military encampment, illegal arrest and detention, torture, destruction of schools, forcible closures and extrajudicial killings of teachers, parents and even students and among others.

“We demand an end to these attacks and we call on our friends from the religious community to denounce this latest arrest and echo the call for the release of our teachers. “ Belardo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

On the Disinformation and Harassment Against ‘Tu Pug Imatuy’

By the Concerned Artists of the Philippines

We condemn the uploading of black propaganda against the film Tu Pug Imatuy (2017), directed by Arnel Barbarona who is a member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Set in Mindanao, Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill) revolves around the story of Manobo couple caught amidst anti-insurgency operations by the Philippine military in a community targetted for mining operations, inspired by a lumad’s actual account of similar events in the region. A notable work of independent, regional, and progressive cinema, the acclaimed film recently completed a series of screenings since its premiere and successive wins at the Sinag Maynila 2017 Film Festival, the Gawad Urian, and the Famas awards.

On September 21, an anonymously-produced video was uploaded and shared via Facebook. It branded Tu Puy Imatuy as a “deceptive indie film” full of untruths and with ties to the CPP-NDF-NPA. The video used film clips, obviously without permission from the filmmaker. It was flagged but continues to be uploaded across other fake news sites. Barbarona also noted a recent incident that points to the possibility of him being surveilled.

The release of such black propaganda is an assault on freedom of expression and the freedom of the artist to critique, reflect or respond to social realities. This sends the message that artistic and creative works that contradict the narrative of the Duterte administration can and will be attacked with impunity.

These acts of vilification on social media happen at a time when alarmist spectres are peddled to discredit criticism of the current economic crisis and political repression in the Philippines. These are no different from the Palace’s and the military’s singling out of critics or advocates from other sectors as “terrorists” and targets for harassment or worse. The Presidential Communications Operations Office, through Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, promotes the spread of dangerous disinformation. For, for instance, it interviewed supposed lumad leaders who want the peace talks scrapped and condemn alleged CPP-NPA killings of “legitimate” leaders—claims that are strongly contested by people’s organizations on the ground.

These cases of red baiting and surveillance are a dangerous throwback to the repression and proliferation of lies, rife during the Marcos dictatorship. Let us not not wait for these to escalate into full-blown harassment of artists and cultural workers or for such black propaganda to become normalized. We call upon our colleagues in the film industry to speak up against the incident and the wider phenomenon of McCarthyist red-baiting of dissent.

Stop the attacks on artists and cultural workers.
Stop the attacks on lumad and indigenous peoples communities.
Stop the attacks on the Filipino people.

Moro group blames Duterte for the massacre of Tausug evacuees

National minority group Suara Bangsamoro blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the massacre of seven Tausug civilians Friday in Patikul, Sulu by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“President Duterte’s all-out war policy is killing more and more of our Moro brothers and sisters. We are enraged that, to appease his Filipino soldiers, he would sacrifice the lives of Moro people by exonerating the perpetrators of the massacre and branding the victims as terrorists,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Succor Aladdin Aba said in a statement.

“We hold President Rodrigo Duterte responsible for the various human rights violations committed by the military against the Moro people in his all-out war directives against ‘terrorists’that uses massive ammunitions including aerial bombardment that target and punishes the community as a whole, and does not discriminate from the real bandits from the civilians,” Aba added.

According to the group, the victims were identified as “husbands of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Patikul who were shot by elements of Scout Rangers while harvesting mangosteen fruits in the area.”

Suara Bangsamoro said the victims were residents of Barangay Tambang and were aged 18 to 32.

The victims evacuated to Barangay Igasan in Patikul due to ongoing military operations in the area against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

According to their families, the victims were allowed by the military’s 55th Infantry Battalion to go to Sitio Tubig Bato, Barangay Kabuntakas to harvest mangosteen.

While they were in Kabuntakas, a firefight between the AFP and the Abu Sayaff and Philippine Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion happened.

The military mistook the seven as Abu Sayyaf members and were captured alive at about noontime Friday, Suara Bangsamoro said.

At five o’clock, however, their cadavers were taken by the AFP to the local police station.

In its press release Friday, the Western Mindanao Command of the AFP claimed the seven were part of a group of 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters who fired at its Task Group Panther and Scout Rangers troopers operating in the area.

Suara Bangsamoro called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident as well as other human rights violations against Moro communities.

“The AFP should be held accountable for this crime. This is not the first time that the AFP committed an atrocity against civilians while parading the victims as Abu Sayyaf bandits,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro said it blames AFP’s anti-terror operations and Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao for the attacks against civilians. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights groups assail Duterte’s fascist attacks

Human Rights group Karapatan and other progressive groups held a Black Friday Protest, September 14, at Gate 2 of Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City to call for an end to the attacks of the Duterte regime against the Filipino people.

According to Karapatan, the Duterte regime is a danger to the Filipino people.

Duterte’s reign of terror through its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and its imposition of martial law in Mindanao are taking advantage of alleged terrorist activities as pretext to attacks against civilians, the group said.

Two farmers from Compostella Farmer’s Association (CFA) were killed last August 19. Couple Gilbert and Jean Labial on their way home after visiting a wake from a fellow CFA member. They were killed by suspected elements of 66th IB because of their opposition to the entry of mining companies in their area, the protesters said.

Karapatan also cited the recent killing of Haide Malalay Flores last August 21 in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental who was shot dead while on her way home. She was a businesswoman and an activist for peasant advocacies.

Karapatan reported as well the case of spouses Edison and Divina Erece who were arrested by elements of military and police last September 3 in Calayan, Cagayan. The couple were members of the peasant group Amihan-Cagayan.

They were charged with illegal possession of explosives, murder, arson and qualified assault.

Political prisoners now number 509, majority of whom are poor peasants, Karapatan said.

Meanwhile, Antonio Flores, secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), stressed that aside from killings of 150 farmers, the Duterte government also slapped trumped up charges against peasant activists.

The filing of criminal offenses and red-tagging of farmer leaders as members of New Peoples Army are the trademark of this administration. Instead of addressing the problem of landlessness and poverty, continuos military operations and human rights violations happened almost everyday, Flores added.

Estrellita Bagasbas of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) said that even urban poor people were victims of Duterte’s attacks.

She cited the violence in Pandi Bulacan where “fake and ousted members” of KADAMAY are allegedly being used by the police as intelligence agents.

Some organizers and leaders of KADAMAY also recieved death threats and harassments, KADAMAY said. # (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

Sultan: Relationship-building more than infrastructure rehab in Marawi

By April Burcer

“We want a rehabilitation that is anchored on cultural sensitivity and respect to religion, which we still don’t see until now,” Marawi City Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar during an Eid’l Fit’r Solidarity Affair Wednesday evening at the University of the Philippines in Diliman said.

Atar said that what they want is simple – to just be allowed to go back to Marawi while it is undergoing rehabilitation instead of having to wait three to four years as proposed by the government.

The solidarity affair, organized by Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination and the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) in time for the end of the month-long Ramadan was held in support of the “Balik Marawi Now!” campaign that aims to help displaced Marawi residents to return to their homes.

The Sultan also expressed his concern over the proposed debris management that plans to dump millions of tons of debris into Lake Lanao for reclamation purposes.

“This is not only an issue of development but also an issue of the environment. The rehabilitation of Marawi should not only serve this generation but the next and the next. If the debris destroys Lake Lanao, what can we give to the future generation?” he asked.

Various organizations expressed their support, including Australian missionary Sr Patricia Fox who said that this problem is not isolated to the Philippines, but is also happening around the world “because of a system that does not recognize the rights of the people.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate promised that “the Makabayan bloc will file a resolution to investigate the increasing human rights violation in Marawi and the complaints surrounding the rehabilitation of the city, as we all know that this rehabilitation is not culturally insensitive.”

Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party, on the other hand,  encouraged people in Luzon and Visayas to speak out and stand up for the Mindanaoans who suffer militarization.

Other groups present during the solidarity event included the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Musikang Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, the Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, Kadamay, among others. #

Group reports new attacks against Lumad communities, schools

by April Burcer

An indigenous peoples’ organization again called on the Rodrigo Duterte government to stop harassments of Lumads following reports of new attacks on communities in the CARAGA, Socksargen and Southern Mindanao region by the military.

Save our Schools (SOS) spokesperson in Mindanao Rius Valle said 122 Mamanwa Lumad families forcibly evacuated last June 12 after soldiers encamped in their communities and refused entry of a relief and humanitarian service by church organizations.

Three days later, the Salugpongan Community Learning Center of Compostela Valley reported that three Lumad families were summoned to the military camp in Barangay San Miguel, New Bataan and were forced to surrender as members of the New People’s Army.

“There’s at least 80 people who have allegedly surrendered to the military. Those who voluntarily surrendered were threatened that if they don’t sign or surrender on their own, they will be jailed, which is possible because of Martial Law when a warrant of arrest does not necessarily have to be issued. Students are also prevented from going to school,” Valle said in an interview.

Military also encamped near the CLANS Lumad Community School in Sultan Kudarat and were asking for the whereabouts of volunteer teachers, another SOS alert said.

“SOCCSKSARGEN has the most number of closed schools. What the military does is that they go to Lumad schools who are still operating and look for their teachers. It was a coincidence that the teachers were currently processing their Permit to Operate from the Department of Education and the military did not find any teacher present. So they bribed the children with 100 Pesos just know where the teachers are,” Valle narrated.

SOS, teachers and members of the network in General Santos are set to organize a Quick Response Team (QRT) to help threatened Lumad communities.

“We are constantly monitoring everything. We don’t have any updates yet regarding the recent attacks because of poor signal. We’re still waiting for text messages from the teachers, but in SOCCSKSARGEN, we’re coordinating a QRT,” Valle said.

A Lumad’s house occupied by AFP troopers. (SOS photo)

56 down, how many more to go?

According to the SOS, 56 Lumad schools all over Mindanao failed to start their classes this month because of the increasing attacks by the military.

The number is still growing as they are still waiting for reports from schools in Mindanao to confirm if they are still operating or not, Valle said.

“We are still consolidating the numbers because some of the communities can’t be reached. That’s not the final tally because there are still several communities who are yet to send in their reports, including Bukidnon, North Cotabato and Surigao,” he added.

Valle said that for the attacks to end, Duterte must first lift martial law to end in Mindanao.

Valle added that the Lumads are asking the public to support the Lumads’ right to education.

“Let us create activities that would spread awareness about the heightened military attacks on schools in Mindanao,” he added.#

Warrior chieftain hostaged and tricked to surrender, Lumad say

The reported surrender of a legendary tribal leader last June 9 in Talaingod, Davao del Norte was an orchestrated gathering by the military that victimized the ailing and elderly chieftain, Lumad organizations and leaders said.

Lumad organizations Salupongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region said Datu Guibang Apoga, who led the Manobo’s successful resistance against logging and mining operations at the Pantaron Mountain Range, did not surrender nor spoke of giving up their struggle to defend their ancestral land.

“In his speech delivered at the assembly, Datu Guibang Apoga spoke of his desire for the Lumad schools to continue to serve his people. Owing to his failing health and increasing age, he spoke of what he perceived as his inadequacies as the tribe’s tribal chieftain,” Salupongan said in a statement.

“Nowhere in his brief discourse did he speak of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of his tribe and his people,” the group added.

The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) said Apoga was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who has defected to the military by turning over his M16 rifle to Brigadier General Ernesto C Torres Jr AFP, Commander of the 1003rd Brigade during the ceremony.

Five hundred Lumads witnessed the event, the military said.

“After more than two decades of being ‘out’ and having been legendary among his circle for his political efforts in supporting the NPA, Datu Gibang is now back to Nasilaban. His surrender would definitely hasten the clearing of areas in and around Talaingod from CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA influence,” the 10th IDPA added.

Pasaka chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, however, said Apoga was lured into attending an assembly of about 150 Lumad only, orchestrated by the paramilitary group Alamara and the military.

Fanagel said Apoga was “hostaged and pressured” by the overwhelming presence of the military.

A downcast Datu Guibang presenting a rifle to a group of euphoric army officers. (Philippine Army photo)

“In his brief speech, Datu Guibang never said mining operations may already be allowed on Pantaron and their Lumad schools should already be closed,” Fanagel told Kodao, quoting Salupongan council officers and members present at the event.

Fanagel said Rural Missionaries of the Philippines paramedics tried to approach Apoga to give him a physical check up but the octogenarian chieftain was constantly surrounded by the military.

Fanagel added that based on the chieftain’s medical history, they suspect Apoga to be suffering from a kidney ailment.

Apoga and other Manobo chieftains in Talaingod launched a pangayaw (a tribal war) in 1993 to prevent logging operations by the Alcantara & Sons (Alsons) corporation.

Apoga and the other datu (chieftain) formed the Salupongan ‘Ta Igkanugon (Unity for the Defense of Ancestral Land) fought off Alsons’s private army and the military with native weapons and old rifles and won.

The government, however, ordered the arrest of Apoga and 25 other datus and have since been hunted by the military, until June 9.

Salupongan said the government has failed to sway its members by deceiving Apoga into attending a tribal assembly that turned into a fake surrender ceremony.

“[The government] has grown desperate in quelling our ranks in the last few months, first by pouring an overwhelming number of state forces in our lands by three Army battalions, second by campaigning for the closure of community schools and harassing community teachers, students and parents, and third by finagling Datu Guibang as a surrendered leader,” Salupongan said.

Apoga (center, third row) looking sullen as a military officer leads a collective reading of an oath. (Philippine Army photo)

Apoga’s fellow Talaingod chieftain, Bai Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay said the military and the paramilitary Alamara used Apoga’s frail health and advanced age into “pressuring” him to a “staged surrender ceremony.”

In a statement, Bibiyaon rallied the Manobo people to remain unfaltering in defending the Pantaron Range, reminding them of their decades of resistance against military operations from Alsa Lumad and Alamara since the 1990s.

“Many more leaders from among our people who continue to suffer from hunger, government neglect and military abuses will rise to continue Salugpongan’s legacy of resistance. Hence, to all the Manobo and lumad people, our resolve must remain unfaltering like the Pantaron on which generations of our people have lived and depended on for generations,” Bibiyaon said.

“We must prevail for as long as the causes of our oppression continue to persist and deny us of the right to live with dignity,” Bibiyaon said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)