Sunday, April 11, 2021

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    Solidarity message to the Lumad of Mindanao – ICHRP Rome

    In behalf of our organizations UMANGAT-MIGRANTE and ICHRP-Rome, Italy and other fellow overseas Filipino Workers in Italy, we express our full support to the ongoing struggles of the Lumad  against the closures of their schools, militarization of their villages and the unabaited Human Rights violations and Extrajudicial killings being perpetrated by the AFP-run paramilitary groups.

    From October 2014 to June this year, already 23 indigenous leaders have been killed in Northern Mindanao Region – 20 of them from the province of Bukidnon alone and the three from the neighboring Misamis Oriental. That is almost three lives mercilessly put out every month. And also aince May 2015, there have been more than 4,000 internally displaced people who have fled to the urban areas.  From Agusan, Sarangani, Davao Del Norte, Bukidnon, and Surigao del Sur, the Lumad have been forcibly displaced.  Taking shelter in public plazas or finding safety in Church sanctuaries, Lumad families suffer all the hardships of internally displaced persons.

    These human rights violations against our indigenous people, particularly the Lumad has been historical, from the very beginning of the colonial history of Mindanao until the present day, the Lumad of Mindanao have been taken advantage of, their lands have been grabbed, and their labor has been exploited; more so, when the Lumad have resisted invaders or defended their lands and life, they have been driven out, economically marginalized, and even massacred.

    As far as we know, the Lumad communities who are being subjected to violence are only resisting the entry and operations of foreign mining, logging and agro-corporations because these corporations are displacing them from their ancestral lands which are the source of their livelihood and where their ancestors are buried.  They consider these lands as sacred because they are the source of life and the burial grounds of their people.  Taking these lands away from them is practically killing them as a people.

    We recall the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME in Arakan on October 25, 2011, He  did not only serve and deepen the spiritual lives of the people but lived with them in the real sense of the word. He did not only preach about justice and God’s love for the poor in a vacuum. Fr. Fausto journeyed with the poor and marginalized peasants and lumads in their daily struggle for a better life and future for their children. He supported and joined the peasants and indigenous people’s struggle for land and right to self-determination, against exploitation and oppression, against militarization and human rights violations. Fr. Fausto was a staunch defender of the peasants’ and lumad’s rights and welfare.

    The murder of Fr. Fausto deserves strong condemnation and indignation. It speaks so much about the Aquino administration; about his sugar-coated national security plan, Oplan Bayanihan. The strong and visible presence of the 57th Infantry Battalion in Arakan was not able to prevent the threat on Fr. Fausto’s life and security. It has unmasked the hypocrisy of the Aquino soldiers’ claim as human rights defenders. Fr. Fausto’s assassin killed him in broad daylight in his parish grounds without fear.

    The Filipino migrant workers in Rome are dismayed of the failure of government to protect them from these rabid paramilitary groups. Why is this so? The people have become the enemy of the state. The state forces turned into investment defense forces. Working under the framework of the Internal Peace and Security Plan—or more popularly called ‘Oplan Bayanihan’, they try to dupe the public by reasoning that the people they have harassed, arbitrarily arrested and slapped with trumped-up charges, or even killed, are supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA). However, how can they justify their presence in areas where there are no NPAs? Clearly, militarization and paramilitarism are designed to protect investments such as corporate plantations and large mining.

    There were also reports of soldiers bribing paramilitary men and even Lumad leaders to destroy IP schools, especially in Talaingod  with the continuous threat by soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion and the paramilitary group Alamara to the staff of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) at sitio Tibukag in Talaingod, there is a bleak chance for the school to open. Soldiers’ orders: kill and burn.

    The latest episode on these dark records on the Indigenous killings, once again, in Mindanao was the cold blooded murder  of a Lumad School Principal (Head Teacher) in Surigao only indicates that the end to this killings is still to be seen.

    The brutal slaying of IP leaders and innocent civilians, the displacements of residents, children being rejected by proper school and continues military operation in Mindanao that aggravate more of these violence and more human rights violations should be denounced and STOPPED. We will continue to expose the brutality of the military and para-militaries against the Lumad and their children and we plan to further our campaigns even to the highest leader of the catholic church, to Pope Francis of the Vatican City to appeal to him and to encourage the wichole church in Philippines to take action and and be compassionate because the lumad are not just Filipinos but also children of God.

    United with the Lumad we raise our voice in calling for the end of crimes against our Indigenous people the Lumad in particular.

    Stop the closure of Lumad schools!
    Stop Lumad killings!
    Pull out military forces from Lumad communities!
    Disband paramilitary forces!
    Respect the indigenous peoples’ rights to education, livelihood and self-determination!
    Justice for all victims of human rights violations!
    Junk Oplan Bayanihan!


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