8 December 2017, Salawaga, Opol, Misamis Oriental—Lumad leaders from the eight indigenous groups in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions started to arrive yesterday for the ‘Kahimunan sa Katungod’ (human rights colloquium) that will run up to December 9.
The colloquium, according to Datu Imbanwag, will discuss ways forward after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte issued the Presidential Proclamation 360 that effectively terminated the peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“With the collapse of the peace talks, the President’s all-out war against the New People’s Army (NPA) is now unleashed,” said the Higaonon chieftain who is also the chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization.
“This war, as in the past, will surely impact the lives of many Lumad community members. Without a doubt, this will target not only armed revolutionaries, but also Lumad leaders campaigning for ancestral lands and the right to self-determination and self-governance,” said Datu Imbanwag. “A number of Lumad communities are now starting to bear the brunt of the renewed militarization as an offshoot of the collapse of the Talks, such as the Banwaon communities in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.”
Twenty-one families composed of 139 individuals chose to flee their homes in San Pedro, Binicalan and Mahagsay of San Luis on December 4. They reported aerial bombings and strafing targeting their homes, and a series of threats and harassments perpetrated against them by the 26th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army. One of their leaders, Boy ‘Datu Mansuladlad’ Amado was pressured by the military to ‘surrender’. Amado, a council member of the community-based organization Tagdumahan, refused to, and stood firm that he is not a member of the NPA. He fears that the military might use his ‘surrender’ act to further other agenda.
The Lumad schools in the said areas were forced to close early, affecting the education of 58 Banwaon children.
“We need to urgently gather to discuss our vulnerabilities, and intensify synergy of our local resources to combat human rights violations and protect our communities”, Datu Imbanwag said. A dialogue with state representatives is expected to happen at the end part of the Kahimunan sa Katungod.
Kahimunan sa Katungod, now on its second year, is an activity supported by the European Union through the ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project implemented by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region and the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization. The colloquium is aimed at fostering solidarity among Lumad communities in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions vis-à-vis increasing discrimination, human rights violations and impunity against the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao.
The activity is being held at Barangay Salawaga which is the former site of a palm oil plantation of A. Brown Company in Opol, Misamis Oriental. It is hosted by Pangalasag, a local organization of the Higaonon people in the area contesting the encroachment of A. Brown Company on their ancestral lands.
The Kahimunan sa Katungod 2017 also hosts side events for support groups, including educational sessions on the national minority question, the neoliberal policies in the Philippine educational system and attack on Lumad schools, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.###
Chairperson, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization
Mobile # +63 935 640 1015
Atty. Czarina Golda Musni
Project Manager, ‘Healing the Hurt’
Mobile # +63 906 744-4404 (Globe) or +63 908 624 4345