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Educators urge lifting of martial law in Mindanao

Educators who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission in the Lanao provinces last June 13 to 16 are demanding the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao.

In a press briefing at the University of the Philippines last June 20, the educators said martial law and the indiscriminate manner in which the war against terror groups in Marawi City is being conducted are creating a grave humanitarian crisis that victimizes civilians. Read more

Marawi students resent destruction of schools, humanitarian mission reports

Students in Marawi struggle to regain access to education as the new school year started amid battles between government troops and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, educators who recently visited evacuation centers in Mindanao said.

“The students harbor deep resentment because their return to their schools for the new school year has been hampered,” All UP Workers’ Union’s Felix Pariñas said.

Pariñas, who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission to Marawi and Iligan cities last June 13 to 16 was among the panellists in the Books Not Bullets: A Press Forum on the National Humanitarian Interfaith Mission & Needs Assessment by the University of the Philippines-Diliman Delegation held last June 20.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro, another mission participant, for her part said more than 20,000 students in the affected areas remain unaccounted for by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education.

She added that 1,424 teachers are still trapped in Marawi itself, 700 of whom are unaccounted for or have yet to report their status to the DepEd, Castro reported.

The DepEd has reportedly mobilized the Learning Continuity Program that aims to transfer internally-displaced students to schools near Marawi.

But Pariñas said DepEd’s program still has little or no effect as students in various evacuation centers are unsure about their chances of resuming schooling.

UP System Information Office’s Jo Lontoc, also a mission delegate to Iligan and Marawi, said there have yet to be arrangements by the DepEd, the schools and the local government units on the affected students’ situation.

“The fighting broke out during the enrolment period.  They really don’t know if they can still go back to school in the near future,” Lontoc said.

The students also expressed hopes for an end the aerial bombings in Marawi, the delegates said.

“They demand an end to the aerial bombing, hoping they would still have schools to go back to when the fighting stops,” Pariñas said.

“Tattered, ragged,” Pariñas described an elementary school the mission visited.

Lontoc added that many students staying in Marawi dormitories were also forced to evacuate and have yet to reunite with their families.

“They are also evacuees who are separated from their families,” Lontoc said.

Pariñas added that students fear for their safety after President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement he would condone rape by soldiers as Mindanao is under martial law anyway.

“They dread the consequences of the President’s statement,” Pariñas said.

Inefficient response

The mission delegates said that while DepEd organized relief efforts to aid students with school bags and school uniforms, these are bogged down by inefficient distribution as well as safety concerns and martial law restrictions.

“Multiple checkpoints worsen already existing issues such as traffic, even outside Marawi. This limits the inflow of volunteers such as the UP delegates from carrying out their mission,” the delegates said.

Castro said the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives intends to file a house resolution for an investigation into the validity of martial law imposition and the possible humanitarian abuses in Mindanao when regular Congress sessions resume on June 24. # (Eunice Lei Wu of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured image courtesy of Gabby Endona and Gabe Sante of UP-CMC )

Groups commemorate Independence Day with calls for respect of human rights

Sectoral groups gathered at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila yesterday to commemorate the Philippines’ 119th Independence Day and to call for peace and respect for human rights.

The National Day of Prayer and Action for Peace and Human Rights event was part of the day-long action denouncing the killings and other human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The groups called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, saying it will only worsen extrajudicial killings and the curtailment of civil and political rights.

Military rule is not a solution to the ongoing conflict against the Maute group in Mindanao, the groups said.

The protesters also condemned ongoing aerial bombings by the Philippine military in Marawi they said only result in wanton destruction of properties and endangerment of civilians trapped in the besieged city.

In a unity statement, the groups called for the continuation of the peace talks between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

(Text and photos by Reynald Denver del Rosario, Luigi Renzo Naval and Eunice Lei Wu of the UP-CMC for Kodao Productions)

Bangsamoro and Lumad activists slam martial law in Mindanao

Leading Moro and Lumad activists slammed human rights violations on the 11th day of the Duterte government’s martial law in Mindanao.

In a forum in Quezon City with several church representatives, the activists said military rule on their island is giving rise to many abuses from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The abuses range from harassment to food blockades of civilian communities, the leaders said.

While the groups are against the terrorist Maute group, they urge the Duterte government to lift its martial law declaration over the entire Mindanao region.

They held a noise barrage along EDSA after the forum. (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

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Mindanao activists protest Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao

Bangsamoro and Lumad activists led a protest action in Camp Aguinaldo after the Rodrigo Duterte government declared martial law in Mindanao.

The protesters said incidents of human rights violations have increased immediately after the May 23 declaration while paramilitary forces with outstanding warrants of arrests are brazenly coming out in the open in the company of the very state units tasked to arrest them. (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

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Martial law survivors hold ‘Black Friday’ protest

Martial law survivors led a protest action in Mendiola to protest President Rodirgo Duterte’s military rule declaration in Mindanao last May 26.

The recalled the horrors the Filipino people suffered under Ferdinand Marcos’ 14-year old martial law and warned more such human rights violations are bound to happen under the current government.

The protesters urged the Duterte government to lift martial law. (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

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Activists hold rally for peace and justice in Mindanao

After President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law over the whole of Mindanao earlier this week following attacks by the Maute Group, progressive organizations held a rally at Plaza Miranda last Wednesday afternoon to call for peace and justice in Mindanao.

Protesting what they say is an unwarranted military rule to quell an attack at certain locations in the island, the activists said martial law is not the proper response to the crisis in isolated areas in Mindanao.

They instead called on President Duterte to revoke his declaration in fear of massive human rights violations against innocent civilians. # (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

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Martial law may negatively affect peace talks

INSTANBUL, Turkey–President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to declare martial law over all of the Philippines will adversely affect his government’s ongoing peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison, the group’s chief political consultant, said.

In an interview,  Sison said Duterte’s martial law declaration over the entire Mindanao may just be a trial balloon and his government may have plans to expand it to include all of the country.

“The martial law shall negatively affect the peace negotiations all the more if it is proclaimed throughout the Philippines after its apparent trial balloon in Mindanao,” Sison said,

“It will have the same bad effects if the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) would use martial law to try to scare (the NDFP) and force it to an interim joint ceasefire agreement ahead of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms,” he added.

Sison’s predictions gained more ground yesterday after President Rodrigo Duterte announced upon his arrival from Russia it is possible he will extend his martial law declaration in Mindanao to Visayas and eventually to Luzon.

“I may decide to expand the area to include the Visayas because it is a walking distance actually,” Duterte said.

The President later said he is actually considering placing Luzon under military rule, saying Islamic State militants could already have gained foothold on the island.

The GRP and the NDFP are set to hold their fifth round of formal talks in Noordwijk Aan Zee from May 27 to June 2. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image courtesy of Malacañan Palace)

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.

VIDEO: Northeastern Mindanao celebrates CPP 47th founding anniversary

Despite checkpoints by the Philippine Army and threats by a paramilitary group that it will kill attendees, thousands of members, supporters and invited guests attended the grand Communist Party of the Philippines 47th founding anniversary celebrations in Northeastern Mindanao last December 26.

Here is a video of the singing of the communist hymn “Ang Internasyunal” led by a company  of New People’s Army fighters.