#NoLandNoLife | An urgent appeal to respect the human rights of the lumads in Mindanao, Philippines and to end the militarization of their communities
#NoLandNoLife | 11 June 2015
An urgent appeal to respect the human rights of the lumads in Mindanao, Philippines and to end the militarization of their communities
We join our brothers and sisters from the lumad* (indigenous) communities in Mindanao, Philippines in their appeal to end the militarization of their villages and to stop the human rights abuses reportedly being committed by government’s armed forces deployed in their areas for anti-insurgency operation. We are appalled how the supposed anti-insurgency military campaign has turned into a systematic repression of the lumads, in particular those who are defending their ancestral land and resources against corporate encroachment and takeover.
We continue to receive alarming reports on the intensifying militarization in lumad areas such as in the towns of Malapatan and Alabel in Saranggani province where more than 1,000 members of the B’laan tribe (one of the lumad groups) have been forced to leave their communities since May 2015 due to aerial bombings and indiscriminate firing allegedly by the Philippine armed forces as well as the establishment of military camps in B’laan villages. Torture, illegal arrests and detention, among other atrocities, are also reportedly rampant.
Several of our partners in the Philippines who are campaigning against pesticide poisoning, land grabbing and human rights violations have been long working with lumad communities. We share their legitimate concern that while the military’s purported target are the armed rebel groups, the militarization and alleged human rights atrocities could also be the direct result of the national government’s aggressive promotion and defense of big corporate investments in mining, plantation, and other extractive industries in Mindanao.
PANAP advocates for the people’s collective rights to their land and resources, including of the indigenous communities that regard such resources not only as a source of livelihood but also as an indispensable part of their culture and identity as a people. NO LAND, NO LIFE! This is true for the lumads in Mindanao and other indigenous people, and for all small food producers in the Philippines and elsewhere. Big corporate investments in mining, plantation, etc. often result in the economic, physical and cultural displacement of local communities that grossly violate their collective rights.
What is worse, as apparently in the case of the lumads, is how their civil and political rights are seriously infringed as well, often with impunity under the guise of government’s anti-insurgency campaign, when they resist and defend their collective rights to land and resources.
Aside from the case of the B’laans in Saranggani, we also monitored the report that the local education department has allegedly ordered the shutdown of tribal schools that cater to the lumad group Ata-Manobo in the town of Talaingod in Davao del Norte province last May 2015. What further alarms us is the proposal of a local education official to deploy military units as “para-teachers” for the Ata-Manobo children. This will further heighten the militarization in lumad areas and aggravate the terror already being felt by the affected communities.
These very recent cases of human rights violations against the lumads are just a continuation of what appears to be a sustained military campaign to make Mindanao more secure for mining firms, plantation operators and other big business interests in the pretext of counterinsurgency. We note how up to this day the extrajudicial killing of Gilbert Paborada, a Higaonon (another lumad group) leader opposing the operation of a palm oil plantation in the hinterland town of Opol in Misamis Oriental province in October 2012 remains unresolved. Fourteen months later, still unknown assailants gunned down another Higaonon leader, Rolen Langala. PANAP had been to Opol in May 2012 for a fact-finding mission and documented several reports of human rights violations related to the resistance of lumad communities against the operation of a palm oil plantation there.
We urge concerned civilian agencies of the Philippine government to look into these reports of abuses against the lumads. We strongly appeal to President Benigno Aquino III to order the immediate cessation of military operations and allow human rights and social workers to attend to the needs of the affected lumad communities.
Reference: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP Executive Director, [email protected]
*Lumad is a term used to collectively refer to the various indigenous groups in Mindanao that include the Subanen, B’laan, Mandaya, Higaonon, Banwaon, Talaandig, Ubo, Manobo, T’boli, Tiruray, Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Dibabawon, Manguangan, and Mansaka. Mindanao is the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines and more than 900 kilometers from the capital, Manila.
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