Lumad evacuees mourn over another child death

The Lumad children are very prone to sickness because of the conditions in their evacuation camp. Government institutions often pay no attention to their conditions, blaming the evacuees for their state instead of addressing the cause of their evacuation. [File photo]






September 4, 2017, Malaybalay City – Eight-month old Tony Boy Suman, who was among the Tigwahanon evacuees in the Malaybalay City Capitol grounds, died on September 1, 2017. Tony Boy suffered from severe diarrhea and vomiting and was rushed to the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital where he finally succumbed.

Ang unang higayon gidala namo si Tony Boy adtong August 20, 2017 sa ospital tungod sa suka-kalibanga. Gitagaan mi og reseta. Tulo ka pharmacy among giadtuan pero usa ra gyud ka tambal ang among napalit. Ang uban wala namo nakaya pagpalit tungod sa kamahal (The first time we brought Tony Boy to the hospital due to vomiting and diarrhea. That was last August 20, 2017. We were given prescription. We went to three pharmacies but were able to buy the one kind. We were not able to buy the other medicines because we could not afford them”, Ailyn Suman, mother of Tony Boy, said. 

Ailyn also said that Tony Boy was brought back to the hospital on August 31, 2017. She said the doctors tried to save him but it was already too late.

The infant is the second child who died during the evacuation of around eighty seven (87) families from Cabanglasan and San Fernando of the province of Bukidnon. One year old Angging Pupuan, an Umayamnon, also died during the evacuation due to pneumonia last August 23, 2017.

The families have been camping in the Capitol grounds since May this year due to the presence of paramilitary groups, Alamara and the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army for Reform (NIPAR) in their communities in Cabanglasan and San Fernando, respectively. These paramilitary groups hold records of human rights violations against Lumad including threatening to kill them. The Alamara group is also held responsible for the killing of Jil Ahing and Alde Latuan in Cabanglasan.

The Manobo families from San Fernando also evacuated into the capitol grounds due to the on-going militarization of the Philippine Army in their community allegedly in pursuit of members of the New People’s Army.

Reaching out to the evacuees

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), through ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project Manager Atty. Czarina Musni, facilitated the distribution of boxes of milk and baby food packs to the evacuees yesterday. The distributed relief goods were donated by friends through the “Higala sa Lumad” network.

Atty. Musni described the general living conditions of the evacuees as “poor”. She said that the evacuees have no access to clean water for cooking. The water provided to them by the local government unit which can be accessed at the back of the capitol building is “murky and highly sedimented”. The water from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office was reportedly clean but the office has barred the evacuees’ access. She further added that the Lumad evacuees were also barred access to public toilets in the capitol building. The Lumad are forced to relieve themselves in the cover of pine trees in the periphery of the grounds.

Atty. Musni also said the children, especially the vulnerable age groups (infants and toddlers), are also malnourished. She explained that the Lumad child who died last month was diagnosed as malnourished and infected by worms by her handling physician in Bukidnon Provincial Hospital. Uprooted from their farms, the Lumad rely on relief donations from non-government organizations which are limited.

Atty. Musni believes the poor living conditions in the camp site are the reasons that worsened the health conditions of the evacuees. Access to health services is also limited because most health facilities and health financial assistance, such as those available in the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital, require legal documents such as birth certificates and valid identification cards which most Lumads do not have.

Neglected and discriminated against

Ailyn Suman shared the sentiments of the evacuees of being neglected and discriminated against. She said it has been four months and the government still has no action on their calls to stop the militarization in their communities and to arrest and prosecute the armed paramilitary groups.

Nakadistrubro gyud sa among panginabuhian ang operasyon sa mga sundalo ug pagpanghasi sa paramilitar sa among komunidad. Unta kung makabalik among mga lider gikan sa Lakbayan, makauli napud mi. Gusto unta nako didto ilubong akong anak (Our lives were disrupted by the military operations of the Philippine Army and the harassments of the paramilitary groups in our communities. We hope that we can go home once our leaders return from the Lakbayan. I want my child to lay to rest there)”, Ailyn expressed.

‘Lakbayan’ or the ‘Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarunganng Kapayapaan (Journey of the National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace)’ is the national convergence of Lumad, Moro and other indigenous peoples aiming to raise the discriminated plight of national minorities in the country. The Lumad leaders from Cabanglasan and San Fernando are among the delegates of the Lakbayan.###


Photo: The wake of Tony Boy Suman inside the makeshift camps of the  Lumad evacuees in Malaybalay City.