Lumad to bring issue of militarization to Manila

Posted on October 14, 2015

DAVAO CITY -- Representatives of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples (IP), or lumad, will begin their annual journey to Manila on Oct. 18 to bring attention to the alleged militarization human-rights violations in their communities.

“Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015,” now on its third year, will take off in Davao City with an expected 400 lumad members accompanied by representatives of religious and human-rights groups.

This year’s “Manilakbayan” calls for an end to attacks on schools and communities allegedly by government forces and paramilitary groups.

Datu Kaylo Bontulan, spokesperson of PASAKA, an alliance of lumad organizations in Southern Mindanao, disputed an assertin from the military’s ranks that the proliferation of paramilitary groups among the IPs is the outcome of a tribal war.

“How can it be a tribal war when the other groups possessed firearms given by the government? It is not true that there is a tribal war going on. It is clear that these paramilitary groups are backed by the AFP to quell the people’s resistance against militarization and plunder,” Mr. Bontulan said in a press statement issued Wednesday evening after a press conference on the “Manilakbayan.”

As this developed, more than 165 members of the Pulangiyen Manobo IP community in Bukidnon arrived at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines’ (UCCP) Haran compound in Davao City to seek refuge from the alleged continuing militarization in their area.

In a statement, Bae Ellen Manlibaas, chairperson of the Kahugpongan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Kitaotao (KMK, United Peasants in Kitaotao), pointed out the “sorry plight of the people in White Culaman [which] started last August 25, when elements from the 8th and 23rd [Infantry Battalions] trooped to their communities and illegally arrested 13 farmers, mostly leaders of the KMK and Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Brgy. White Culaman [NAMABAW].”

The UCCP Haran has been sheltering since early this year other lumad from Davao del Norte and San Fernando, Bukidnon, who have also fled their homes due to alleged military harassment.

Datu Mentroso Malibato of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, said the government has been slow to act on IP concerns.

“There are already findings on [human-rights violation] cases in lumad communities, the [Commission on Human Rights] and Congress already conducted [their inquiries], even [United Nations] Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani, already registered his statement regarding the evacuees at UCCP Haran, but no action has been done to pull out military troops from our communities and disband paramiltary groups,” Mr. Malibato said.

“That’s why we will join Manilakbayan to bring the issue to the seat of power, right outside the Malacañang,” he added.

In Manila, “Manilakbayan” will set up camps at the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus and Liwasang Bonifacio until November 18-19, when the capital is scheduled to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. -- Marifi S. Jara