Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015 was a protest caravan from Mindanao to Manila that brought the voices of the Lumad and other sectors to the national capital. The 700-strong contingent represented different sectors from Mindanao, majority of whom are Lumad.
One the key issues raised is the attack on Lumad schools by state and paramilitary forces. These schools were initiated by the indigenous peoples’ organizations with the support of NGOs and church groups to address illiteracy and the lack of schools in the hinterlands. The 67 indigenous Lumad schools have been subjected to various forms of attack from the military and paramilitary groups, such as encampment, burning of school, threats and harassments to teachers and students and killings of school personnel.
The recent killings of ALCADEV school head Emerito Samarca along with Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo triggered the evacuation of Lumads from their ancestral lands, seeking sanctuary at Tandag City Sports Complex in the province of Surigao del Sur. An estimated 40,000 Lumads were displaced from their communities due to heavy military operations this year.
Manila Today presents an interactive timeline of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao highlighting the major events in their journey.
Hundreds of Manilakbayanis protested at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the agency’s ‘culpability on attacks against schools, communities and people in Mindanao’.
The Lumads hit the CHR “for being inutile at the face of worsening human rights violations (HRVs) against the Lumad.”
Since President Benigno Aquino III assumed presidency in June 2010, indigenous peoples (IP) group KATRIBU has recorded 68 IP victims of extra-judicial killings, 1 enforced disappearance, 99 cases of harassments, and the filing of trumped-up charges against 176 leaders and members of IP organizations, with 7 leaders incarcerated. Almost half of the EJK victims in the country are from Mindanao, 56 of which were Lumads.
KATRIBU recorded 9 incidents of bombing of communities and farmlands, and 54 cases of forced evacuations in Mindanao displacing more than 40,000 Lumads since President Aquino took office.
The CHR would release a statement only on November 2 condemning the violations committed against the Lumad people. The commission would also hit the NPA for the execution of Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza and his son. The commission said that both AFP and the NPA violated rights to life. Lumad leaders have accused Otaza as the local paramilitary group recruiter for the military and drug lord.
The Lumads said that they could attest to the violations of the military against our people and our communities and that is why they came to Manila.
“It is the government’s job to raise their issues with the NPA, not ours. They are at war with each other. But the paramilitary and the military killed Lumads, they killed civilians, killed one of our own. That is equal to the government killing its people and we should speak out about that,” said Datu Jumorito Guaynon, spokesperson of Manilakbayan 2015.
Lumad leaders were dismayed at the ambivalence of the human rights agency, for they felt that when the government invokes the NPA seemed to mean that they would also do nothing with the military.
“These government agencies do not respond to the Lumad issues straight up. They would invoke the NPA and when they do that, they meant to lessen the culpability of the military. They meant to confuse the issue. The Lumads, the children, saw the paramilitary blew out the brains of the Lumad datus while the military hangs around nearby. What is not clear about that?” said Arlene Brosas, 2nd nominee of Gabriela Women’s Party.
The Lumads also suspected the agency to be doing “only lip service” to the issue and “playing safe,” as no concrete actions to the issue have been demonstrated.
Lumads lit candles for justice
Members of UP Diliman community, supporters and Lumad people lit aroung 1,000 candles in front of the Palma Hall to remember the slain Lumads and all those who fell victims to militarization and development aggression.
QC groups rallied support for Lumads, kampuhan
Sacks of vegetables, rice, clothes, blankets, toys and boys were also delivered by organizations, families and individuals who dropped by the kampuhan. More than 700 breakfast packs were served for the Manilakbayan delegates from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan QC and POWER QC.
Come nighttime, village councils, local government officials and local organizations also shared solidarity messages and pledged various forms of support to the Manilakbayan in the cultural night hosted by BAYAN Quezon City.
Around 100 Lumad students who came to Manila with the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015 campaign and children’s rights advocate groups protested in front of the central office of Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City. The students challenged DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro to revoke DepEd Memorandum 221. The groups blamed the said memo for legitimizing the AFP and paramilitary groups to camp in Lumad schools and use the schools for their military operations.
Since April 2015, Lumad schools and its volunteer teachers hold classes in evacuation centers because Lumad schools were closed down, destroyed or encamped by soldiers.
Ethnocidal attacks on indigenous education, indigenous leaders and their staunch advocates and supporters are but the latest in a string of Aquino’s orders to tighten the noose on Lumad schools:
1. Since April of 2014 up to present, 25 Lumad schools and community schools were forced to halt operations for the entire month of June due to harassment by the AFP and sanctioned by the Department of Education (DepEd).
2. At least 84 cases of attacks on 57 community schools have displaced and disrupted the education of over 3, 000 Lumad children.
3. Two (2) minors were brutally killed by the elements of 3rd Company of the1st Special Forces Battalion under the ground commander Capt. Balatbat with Col. Nasser Lidasan as Battalion Commander on August 19, 2015 in Pangatukan town, Bukidnon province. They were part of 5 Manobo tribals strafed and killed on suspicion of being NPA combatants.
4. The schooling of Lumad children under the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur was disrupted when residents of Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur were displaced. Brothers Ely and Crisanto Tabugol, residents of the said community, were killed by an armed group led by Hasmin and elements of the 36th IBPA.
5. A Lumad child was among 14 farmers in White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon who were illegally detained and arrested by elements of 8th IB ug 23rd IB headed by Nicolas Rivera and an official named Tocmo. All were accused as members of the New People’s Army in contrast to the fact that they are members of organizations Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Culaman ( NAMABAW) and Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Arakan (TIKULPA). The Army threatened to burn down the MISFI-run (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated) school which offers 7th and 8th grade education in Sitio Dao, Bukidnon.
6. Adding to these abuses is the ongoing mass evacuation of the Talaingod Manobo people in Davao City since April of this year due to intensified military operations and threats from the terrorist paramilitary group ALAMARA. Around 1, 000 individuals from San Fernando Bukidnon, Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte have sought sanctuary at UCCP Haran, Davao City. Learners from Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc (STTILCI) in Talaingod have been holding their classes at the refugee camp since the evacuation started. Worse, three soldiers of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade raped a 14-year old Manobo grade 4 student of the Butay elementary school while conducting military operations in the area.
7. Last month, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao schools in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon have earlier reported harassments and threats from suspected state forces in the form of anonymous text messages, private message via facebook, and surveillances. In March 18, 2014, an RMP-NMR school grounds in Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur was strafed by 26th IB troops disrupting the graduation practice of the school. In Sarangani province, administrators and faculty of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS) which provides education to indigenous Blaan children have been filed with false criminal charges of serious illegal detention of evacuees and inciting to sedition.
24 September 2015
Prof. Mae Fe Templa, MSW
Convenor, Save Our Schools Network
Sec. Luistro, a Lasallian brother, did not come out to meet with the Lumad children. The office instead sent out a DepEd representative who told the delegation that cases filed against military encampments was being investigated.
“Since 2012, several dialogues were set where Luistro vowed to investigate and act on the cases presented to him by the students and Save Our Schools network. But every year the cases on the attacks on schools increase and abuses intensify,” said Kharlo Manano, lead convenor of Save Our Schools network and Secretary General of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns.
This is the third time Mindanaoans staged the Manilakbayan since 2012. But this might be the first time that the public and the nation expressed outpouring support to the enduring issues of the Lumads.
Did it take the gruesome killing of two Lumads and one volunteer educator in a day to gain this support and outcry from the Filipino people? We think not.
But maybe it took the September 1 deaths of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo to take over and expose the government propaganda of “peace-building in the countryside” and “Lumads being NPAs therefore enemies of the state” and the rundown mantra of “daang matuwid.”
While for the third time, the Aquino administration paid no heed to the Lumads.
Uncaring as ever, the Aquino administration issued general statements on the issue while the public clamored for address the killings and militarization and while Metro Manilans showered the Lumad concrete support. In epic proportions of callousness, the Aquino administration had the guts to dish out public relations on the Lumad issue, while wholly ignoring the Lumads who have been encamped and protesting for a month in Metro Manila.
And despite the success of the Manilakbayan, impunity still reigns at the countryside.
On November 12, an ALCADEV school located in Padiay village, Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur, was attacked. The teachers’ cottage was razed to the ground.
In October, a lumad school at White Culaman village, Kitaotao, Bukidnon was shut down by the village chairman Felipe Cabugnason, on suspected instigation by soldiers also of the 23rd Infantry Batallion (IB) and the 8th IB.
This resulted to 100 Pulangihan Manobos from Kitaotao, Bukidnon fleeing their communities after military arrived, arresting Lumads, searching houses and forcibly recruiting them to paramilitary groups.
There were sentimentalities expressed over the Lumads leaving Metro Manila to journey back home. The Lumads being missed in Metro Manila was abuzz in social media and the last public gatherings held with them. The Lumads have endeared themselves to many supporters, habitual camp visitors and even the public. But Metro Manila is not their home and they were only here to fight to live in their home, in their ancestral lands.
But for as long attacks on their communities persist, as long as injustice persists, the nation’s capital could expect more Manilakbayans to come, each journey more thunderous and resounding than the last.
Charlotte Robles Job Despuez
Manilakbayan ng Mindanao
Save Our Schools Network
Southern Tagalog Exposure