Despite the new administration, the plight of the Lumad remains the same.
The Kahimunan sa Katungod has summarized our concerns into four major issues. The first and foremost problem is that on Ancestral Domain. We are still being dispossessed of our lands through the forced entry of different destructive projects such as mining, plantations, and energy projects. This is worsened by the entry of the National Greening Program and the different ‘Foundations’ supported by the military and the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Connected to this is the threat of militarization and the continued state support for paramilitary groups to fore the entry of these projects. Under this problem is the organizing of the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) in the Lumad communities accused by the government and military as strongholds of the New People’s Army (NPA). There is also a program forcing old rebel returnees to surrender. They are used to deceive the community because they are assumed to know their fellow Lumads better.
Also linked to this is the forced establishment of schools where the teachers and curriculum are controlled by the government. We learned that the government will be assigning military personnel as teachers in some schools. Students who will not attend school will be considered as an NPA supporter.
The third major problem is the gradual destruction of the Lumad communities through government programs and actions that bastardize our culture. One of these is the baptism and election of fake datus. Many datus have been baptized but more problems are left unresolved. It is not only bastardizing our culture but this also results into the factions in our communities.
Related to this is our complaint against the election of the IP Mandatory Representative. We have seen through our experience that the Lumad have lost our right [to self-governance] because we cannot act or decide on any matter as Mandatory Representative. He had to conform to the program of the NCIP. On the other hand, the selection of the Mandatory Representative does not follow the traditional selection process of electing a community leader.
We have gathered that the solutions to our problems are the following:
1. Respect our right to our ancestral land. We are not against development. But the development we want should also be experienced by our succeeding generations. Because of this, we strongly oppose companies that are destructive to the environment, companies that are creating products that most of us do not need.
2. Respect our right to self-determination. As what we have said, there is a need to respect our decisions for our community. We know our communities better and we know what kind of development we want. We demand the disbanding and disarming of paramilitary groups because they are being used against us to force programs destructive to our communities. Until now, there is no justice for our brothers who fell, victims of extrajudicial killings. We demand the arrest of the leaders of these paramilitary groups whose warrants of arrest had already been released more than a year ago and yet to date has not been served. We also call for the military to leave our communities. If the government wants anything to do with us, they can do it through unarmed groups.
3. We are calling for the junking of the IPRA because, from our experience, this has only wreaked havoc in our community. Our people have been divided, made to fight each other in the implementation of the Law.
4. At the minimum, we want those who were not elected by the community removed from their position. The selection of the mandatory representative should be from the community and not assigned by politicians or by the NCIP. At the maximum, our self-governance has to be respected and not by allocating us some positions in the government. At the maximum, we want an autonomous government, not just representatives.
Most of all, we have to be strong, and remain resolute and active in our respective organization. We need to continue our struggle. Our strength is our defense and arms.
(Signed by the around 300 Lumad leaders and participants of the ‘Kahimunan sa Katungod’, 08 December 2106, Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon)
*This is an English translation of the original statement in Cebuano