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DYING FOR THE LAND: THE TRUTH PNOY NEEDS TO HIDE FROM #APEC2015
“They want us out because they want to hide the truth.”
Eufemia Cullamat knows something about truth. She saw a militia band execute her brother, Dionel Campos and her uncle, Datu Juvello Sinzo, on the day of her father’s burial.
“They are afraid of the truth,” she said on the way back to Liwasang Bonifacio after a meeting with Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on vacating the Lumad camp in Liwasang Bonifacio.
“They want us out because they need to show the world the Philippines is a peaceful country,” Eufemia said.
“I can tell them the truth. My 13 year old niece and her brother saw their father murdered. I saw small children screaming and running in panic as the paramilitary strafed the air around us. Three hundred people can tell them the truth.”
Eufemia says the Lumad are “being driven out like wild dogs,” because ” PNOY cannot afford for the truth to come out.”
Permit granted, rescinded
Estrada had initially given the Lumad a permit to stay until Nov. 23.
He blinked when President Beningno Aquino III sent officials from the Presidential Security Group, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (DILG).
At a press conference explaining his decision, Estrada said the Philippines needs to show the world its best face during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
“We need to show the world the Philippines is a peaceful, safe and clean nation,” said the former president. “We must protect the image of the country.”
The Lumad say Estrada, in so many words, told them his hands are tied.
“The LGU is always under the national government,” Datu Kaerlan Fanagel quoted him as saying.
The government has a very strange concept of peace. Beyond lip service, it has not moved to solve the problems hounding the Lumad.
On the contrary, President Benigno Aquino III continues to defend the Armed Forces of the Philippines although his own Liberal Party fellows have exposed the complicity of the military in the killings of the Lumad.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel has repeatedly said the AFP created a monster by recruiting and arming former rebels into a militia funded by mining corporations, a model approved by Mr. Aquino.
Sen. TG Guingona pointed out that even as he was holding hearings in Tandag City, where the Lumad have an evacuation camp, soldiers were sighted in the company of the paramilitary they claimed not to know, still wreaking havoc on Lumad communities.
The Chair of the Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, said at least two massacres of Lumad were clear cases of “extra-judicial killings”.
He cited the Lianga massacre, where militia also murdered Emerito Samarca, the head teacher of Alcadev, an award-winning school for Lumad youth, and the massacre in Pangantucan, Bukidnon of a family of five men, including a blind-70 year old patriarch and two minors.
Lianga witnesses identified two of the killers. They have filed a case against them. Yet these men continue to operate in the company of soldiers. The Philippine National Police (PNP) cannot move against them because they fear the suspects’ protectors.
Mr. Aquino wants to hide the Lumad’s truth. At the Hosue of Representatives, military officers and a datu identified by the Lianga killers as their boss, peddled their version of the truth.
Datu Jumar Bucales of San Isidro, Lianga argued that Samarca’s murder is justifiable because “poisoned the Lumand mind” with notions of justice and environmental protection.
Bucales is mentioned in the affidavits of the witnesses to the massacre. Yet, there he was, seated beside military officers in a hearing where lawmakers presided.
The former head of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) blamed the victims, saying they were killed because their communities refused to listen when told to give up the rebels among them.
Rep. Nancy Catamco even suggested that an indigenous ritual would make murder a legitimate action.
Another lawmaker, former military rebel Gary Alejano, hailed the hounding of Alcadev. He linked the school to leftist guerrillas although the government’s own education evaluators deemed it last year as the region’s best alternative school.
The military insists rebel recruitment is the cause of the Lumad’s problems. The military says mining — and plantations — will be the salvation of Lumad. It sees opposition to these projects as proof of rebellion.
Its militia, who are rewarded with mines and plantations, believe there is no difference between an armed guerrilla and a civilian who may share some of the positions espoused by the underground leftist movement. When a civilian dies, the military says it is the NPAs fault — for having brainwashed them.
This is the truth that needs to be covered up in time for APEC. Mr. Aquino cannot afford to jeopardise military aid that is hinged on the government’s fulfilment of commitments to uphold human rights.
Dying for the land
There is also Michelle Campos’ truth.
Alcadev’s eloquent valedictorian, a college education student before tragedy forced a halt to her schooling, directly links the atrocities against her people to their refusal to grant mining firms entry into their lands.
“We will fight for the land handed down by our ancestors. We will fight for our schools. We will fight for the right to decide how best to live our lives,” she told supporters at the Lumad’s last night in Liwasang Bonifacio.
“For these, they kill us,” Campos said. “I tell you, it is an honor to die for these ideas.”
If there is anything history tells us, it is that the truth will out.
As international delegates to a people’s summit gather in the Philippines, the Lumad will assert their right to reveal the price they pay for the dirty ties between mine and plantation owners, active and retired military, and top officials of the government.