Lumads an Endangered Species
eastwind journals 171
By Bernie Lopez
Philippine Daily Inquirer Columnist
Permission is granted to re-publish with credits and notification.
Disclaimer – the views in this article are those of the author alone.
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It has actually been happening for the last decade, but now, it has reached massive proportions, yet the general public is not aware of the depth of the problem, this ongoing ethnocide Mindanao-wide.
Lingling Maranan Claver writes, “From Bukidnon, Davao, Surigao del Sur to other parts of Mindanao, the Lumad indigenous communities are being killed and driven out of their lands by the Army and their militias.” Claver’s data is the tip of the iceberg, if you consult some Lumad federations who know. If we are to make an inventory of massacres in the last decade, we will be shocked.
The AFP does not believe in due process, courts, investigations, hard evidence. It relies on intelligence information which can be true or hearsay, verified or unverified, spurious, or questionable. They have no time to find out the real truth. Then they deny allegations that they are using paramilitary forces and/or ragtag groups to do the killing for them while they sit back innocently and relax in their camps. This strategy has been going on everywhere in Mindanao in the last two decades.
It is a bizarre social phenomenon. Here is how a massacre begins. The AFP runs after the NPA. The NPA hides in a remote Lumad village. This is not even a ‘red area’, just a guerrilla ‘path’ for mobile NPA units. The NPA practices propaganda but not everywhere. They just want a meal. They convince the Lumads to join them. There are two scenarios for the Lumads, which show very clearly their dilemma, caught in a war they are not really a part of.
First scenario is – some Lumads are convinced to join the NPA because, either the AFP is killing them off as alleged NPA supporters, or businessmen or powerful politicians grab their lands. If Lumads say no to the NPA, they may be considered as AFP assets and informers. Mining companies or large agribusinesses employ AFP elements or retirees to harass Lumads to give up their lands. They brand them as NPA supporters as an excuse to drive them off their ancestral lands. They entice hungry Lumads with minimum-wage salaries and convince them to join anti-NPA paramilitary units. Even pseudo-NGOs are used as fronts by foreign multinationals to access ancestral lands for development with only trickle down benefits to the Lumads. Finally, they prop pseudo-chieftains to split the Lumads. There is no choice, in the name of survival, but to fight back by joining the NPA.
Second scenario is some are convinced to join the AFP in fear of threats of being accused of and massacred as NPA supporters or informers, if you say no to the AFP. In the end, the Lumads are split into two and end up killing each other, while the AFP and NPA sit back and relax. It is a bloody proxy war. Some join the NPA, and become AFP targets. Some join the AFP and become NPA targets. This is the evolution of a new kind of ethnocide.
The Lumads are the target of both AFP and NPA propaganda. They are hounded consistently until they side with one or the other. It is a tug of war between AFP and NPA and they are the rope. There is no such thing as neutral in a war. Slowly, neutrality, the only salvation for the Lumads, disappears. War splits the Lumads into three camps, pro-NPA, pro-AFP, and neutral. Majority want to stay neutral but they are being forced to side with one or the other. As AFP massacres continue, the number of pro-NPA Lumads grow. It is now a vicious circle. Damn if they do and damn if they don’t.
As propaganda and AFP-NPA encounters intensify, the AFP then treats the Lumad village as a ‘red area’ and massacres the entire village, including women and children. This is the evolution of the ongoing ethnocide Mindanao-wide. The Lumads are caught forever in an ongoing war between AFP and NPA.
The greatest problem of Lumads in Mindanao today, their utter dilemma is two fold. First, they are forever caught in an insurgency war they are not really a part of. Second, they are rapidly losing their ancestral lands to powerful forces. The Lumads are an endangered species.
Inday Espina-Varona sent a letter to President Aquino (excerpts shown below) dated September 4 entitled “They are killing teachers and children, Mr. President.” (Source – http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/blogs/opinions/09/04/15/theyre-killing-teachers-and-children-mr-president. There is no news if this letter has fallen on deaf ears. Aquino is more concerned with having the BBL approved for his ‘legacy’. It will heighten the massacre of Lumads and the loss of their lands to Muslims in BBL areas. This has actually been happening for the last few years, even without the BBL. All is quiet in Malacanang. Varona’s pleas fall on deaf ears.
The letter cites the now famous ALCADEV. The AFP, whether based on spurious or real intelligence data, has identified it as a ‘red school’. A ragtag Lumad group called Magahat Bagani assassinated ALCADEV director Ernesto Samarca. The AFP denied any links with the group. When the AFP was attacked in the media, it started an Internet campaign denouncing ALCADEV as ‘red’. The AFP said there was a feud between rival Manobo clans. Of course there was a feud, but did the AFP induce it by splitting the Manobos? DepEd is proud of ALCADEV as a model in grassroots education. Will the constant AFP raids of ALCADEV end up with the massacre of children?
The solution is simple. Demilitarize war zones. Ask the AFP and NPA to both get out of Lumad lands. If they do, there will be peace. Tell the foreign multinationals, the mining firms which use rogue tactics to back off. The solution is LEAVE THE LUMADS ALONE, easier said than done in our ever-shrinking planet of greed and violence.
Mr. President, the blood of Lumads is on your hands. You cannot be indifferent or silent. If you are, that is your legacy as much as the politics-based BBL, which seeks Muslim votes for the elections. Please tell the AFP to stand down. Please send emissaries to the NPA to do the same. Stop the blood bath induced by outsiders. email@example.com
Letter to the President
“Dear President Aquino, It’s hard to believe a man who still regularly shares the pain of his father’s murder can be silent in the face of our Lumad children’s nightmare. You felt horror and rage on the assassination of your father, Ninoy. I am sure you can empathize with a 15-year old Manobo boy from Sitio Mando, Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon. He didn’t just hear of the murders of his kin, Mr. President. He actually begged soldiers to spare their lives, appealing that his father, brothers and cousins be jailed if, indeed, they had done anything wrong. His father was 70 and blind; his brothers 20 and 19 years old. One of his cousins was 13 years old; the other was 17. He begged the soldiers, Mr. President. And they shot father, brothers and cousins, one by one.
“Maybe you were told (by) soldiers (that they) had slain New People’s Army rebels in an encounter. Well, here are the identities of the slain “rebels.” Herminio Samia, 70; sons Joebert, 20, and Emir, 19, and relatives Norman, 13, and Elmer, 17: a blind senior citizen; two children; two very young adults.
“The NPA is engaged in guerrilla warfare. How can a blind 70-year old man be a guerrilla? They were all kin, Mr. President. Please scour intelligence reports. It’s rare – possibly unheard of — to have an entire family in one guerrilla unit. You see, villagers say the actual encounter with rebels happened kilometers away.”
when doors and windows are shut
leaving you in utter darkness and despair
whisper a prayer to the Lord of hope
who will open up cracks to let His Light in