Hitler… Holocaust lines? DO YOU REMEMBER THEM, MR. PRESIDENT?


Dear President Aquino,
I oppose the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte because of his views — and actions — that are inimical to human rights. I oppose the candidacy of the dictator’s son, who still pines for the bloody paradise of his father.

“If you allow them to oppress your fellow man and you do not speak up, you will be the next one to be oppressed.”

Aquino repeated the famous quotes of Martin Niemoller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken critic of Hitler and spent the last years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

“First they came for the communists, but I did not speak out because I was not a communist… finally they came for me and there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Let me jog your memory, Mr. President. What did your government do while soldiers and para-military forces hounded Lumad to death in Mindanao?

When the Lumad sought sanctuary in Davao, your Liberal Party colleague tried to force their “rescue”.
KARLO MANLUPIG
‘Saving the Lumad’ Cops summoned to Davao City by the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Peoples to “rescue” lumad fleeing military abuses in their mountain communities injured 15 of the displaced folk and destroyed a number of temporary shelters. (Photo by Karlo Manlupig)
Your Armed Forces earned a sharp dressing down from a UN expert when they tried to manipulate his words and the truth (yes, pretty much Goebbels-style, right?)
You snubbed the Lumad when they came to the capital to call attention to their plight.
Yet your allies in Congress and your AFP brass — and your national security office in Malacanang — hosted pet datus as they preached their belief that anyone with “alien” ideology was fair game for murder.
Your hand-picked successor Mar Roxas ignored entreaties by a governor from your own party. Indeed, when a refugee shared his plight, Mr. Roxas urged him to deliver himself unto the AFP — the very same folks who’d sent him scrambling for safety.

 

Nobody came to the aid of 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.
Remember them, Sir?
lianga
Lumad and supporters hold candlelight rites for Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo and 57 other Lumad murdered under the Aquino administration. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)
On September 1, in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao Sur, the head teacher of a lumad alternative school was found murdered.
Emerito Samarca’s students at the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) discovered his body. The folk at Diatagon had no access to education until private efforts established Alcadev for Manobo, Banwaon, Higanon, Talaandig and Mamanwa youth.
AlcadevYou spurned Alcadev’s students when they were in town late 2014 to protest the militarization of their schools.
A year later, these same children saw Dionel Campos and his cousin Belio Sinzo murdered by paramilitary troops.
The three gentlemen’s crime — providing a safe space for the education of children neglected by government.
No one came to help the hapless Lumad, Mr. President. No one from your government. It took private citizens and people’s organizations and churches to come to their aid.
And don’t you talk of coming to the aid of people suspected of being communists.
REDS
There have been more than 300 cases of extra-judicial killings under your administration. Eighty of these involved indigenous people or tribal groups. Almost always, people your government suspects of being communist.
You couldn’t even be bothered over the death of hungry farmers, Mr. President. Spare us your warnings.
KILAB MARCH 31 Screen Shot
We know about tyrants and what they can do to the country.
You speaking on our behalf isn’t just silly and thoughtless as you often are. It is criminal, because it seeks to use legitimate fears to cover-up your government’s attrocities.
Your government kills teachers and children, Mr. President. WE WILL NOT FORGET.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED

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.
Eufemia Cullamat (right) and her niece, Sheina, who witnessed the execution of her father, Dionel Campos, by paramilitary forces on Sept. 1 in Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Eufemia Cullamat (right) and her niece, Sheina, who witnessed the execution of her father, Dionel Campos, by paramilitary forces on Sept. 1 in Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“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.
Aquino’s peace
The government has a very strange concept of peace. Beyond lip service, it has not moved to solve the problems hounding the Lumad.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel says the Armed Forces of the Philippines are behind the rampaging paramilitary in Mindanao.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel says the Armed Forces of the Philippines are behind the rampaging paramilitary in Mindanao.

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 and Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel at the Lumad evacuation camp in Tandag City. (Senate photo)
Sen. TG Guingona and Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel at the Lumad evacuation camp in Tandag City. (Senate photo)

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.
Justifying murder
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.
Parishoners at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran view posters of Lumad killed under President Benigno Aquino III's administration,
Parishoners at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran view posters of Lumad killed under President Benigno Aquino III’s administration,

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.
Dionel Campos', daughter, Michelle graduated from Alcadev, passed the equivalency exams and was enrolled in a BS Education course when militia murdered her father. She has dropped out to seek justice for his death. Here, she leads protests at Camp Aguinaldo. (Photo by Kilam Multimedia)
Dionel Campos’, daughter, Michelle graduated from Alcadev, passed the equivalency exams and was enrolled in a BS Education course when militia murdered her father. She has dropped out to seek justice for his death. Here, she leads protests at Camp Aguinaldo. (Photo by Kilam Multimedia)

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.”
Manilakbayan 2015 contingents march towards Mendiola banging their "bangkakawan" to protest their early eviction from Liwasang Bonifacio (Photo by Kilab Muiltimedia)
Manilakbayan 2015 contingents march towards Mendiola banging their “bangkakawan” to protest their early eviction from Liwasang Bonifacio (Photo by Kilab Muiltimedia)

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.

Hear this, APEC: In PH, they kill people for their thoughts


In the saga of the Philippine Lumad, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao staving off the theft of their ancestral lands, many fantastic claims and suggestions have been heard from the government.

The most outrageous statements have come from officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and their Commander in Chief.

There is no campaign against the Lumad, said President Benigno Aquino III, who wants the Lumad out of Liwasang Bonifacio before the arrival of APEC summit delegates. READ: Lumad hold fast, defy orders to dismantle camps. 

Sixty of them, including ten children have been killed under his watch. Yet, to Aquino, who has brushed aside mounting charges of human rights violations by the military, only criminals need to fear the AFP.

Lumad and supporters hold candlelight rites for Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo and 57 other Lumad murdered under the Aquino administration. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)
Lumad and supporters hold candlelight rites for Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo and 57 other Lumad murdered under the Aquino administration. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)

Military officers and the datus who support the militia they train, initially said the NPA is to blame for the killings. When identities of the killers are brought up, they shift and say the NPA is to blame because they brainwash the Lumad into becoming supporters.

But nothing has come close to the proposition uttered today in the House of Representatives hearing led by Rep. Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato — who prides herself in being a goddess to the Lumad and whose idea of saving them is to send an armed force to wrest them from sanctuary.

READ: Lumad goddess storms sanctuary of threatened IPs

With Catamco throwing leading questions, some Manobo datu or chieftains gave a novel justification for the killing on September 1 of Emerito Samarca, the head teacher of an award-winning school for Lumad youth.

Samarca’s students found him sprawled in his room at Alcadev, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, with a bullet wound in his chest and a throat slit from side to side. The children discovered his body a few minutes after witnessing the execution of Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo by paramilitary forces.

The militia had earlier forced Alcadev’s entire population out of the school compound, but held back Samarca.

Dionel Campos', daughter, Michelle graduated from Alcadev, passed the equivalency exams and was enrolled in a BS Education course when militia murdered her father. She has dropped out to seek justice for his death. Here, she leads protests at Camp Aguinaldo. (Photo by Kilam Multimedia)
Dionel Campos’, daughter, Michelle graduated from Alcadev, passed the equivalency exams and was enrolled in a BS Education course when militia murdered her father. She has dropped out to seek justice for his death. Here, she leads protests at Camp Aguinaldo. (Photo by Kilam Multimedia)

Here is impunity in its full glory. Here are government-approved “leaders” and a legislator making a case for the killing of a teacher. 

His crime: supposedly “poisoning the minds of students”. 

Catamco had tried her best to portray Alcadev, an award-winning alternative school for Lumad youth, which has earned fame for the academic achievements of its students and for improving farm yields in the Andap Valley, as a nursery for rebels.

Catamco: “Why was Samarca killed? Was he killed through the magahat?”
Datu Jumar Bucales of San Isidro, Lianga: “Siya ang naglalason sa mga tao (He poisoned the people).”
Catamco: “Iyan ba ang rasondahil siya ay may nagawang kasalanan sa tribodahil inapakan niya ang kultura ng tribo sa pagtuturo ng isang ideolohiya (Is that the reason, because he sinned against the tribe and trampled on tribal culture by teaching an ideology)?”
Bucales: “Iyan ang rasonkasi iyong mga graduate ng ALCADEV pumupunta sa kilusan (Yes, because the graduates of ALCADEV choose to support the movement).”

You would think a legislator would recognize the fact that the Constitution and the penal code of the country ban murder.

Instead, Catamco tried to frame murder as an acceptable act under Lumad customary law, suggesting that the decision came under the auspices of a Lumad ritual. Bucales answered in the negative.

And then the former chair of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said former rebels among the Lumad may have undertaken the situal for the magahat because the community would not heed their demands to stop supporting rebels.

This is the Philippines, supposed one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies.

This is the Philippines, where the military and Malacanang national security aides, and the entire coterie of paramilitary datus, have their own peace plan for the Lumad.

First, the Lumad should all decamp from displacement centers, leave Manila and return home, where they can settle their “problems” away from the prying eyes of media, rights groups and worried clergy and nuns of various churches.

Second, the Lumad must turn over all chieftains suspected of supporting the rebels.

To the AFP and their minions, support for rebels means opposition to logging, mining and plantation spreads. As Michelle said in her message to President Aquino: the peace they seek is that of the graveyard.

‘Leadership’

The statements made in Catamco’s hearing can be understood better in this context:

Marcial Belandres, far left; Rico Maca, 2nd from left; Arthur Tariman of National Alliance for Democracy, 3rd from left; and Nestor Apas, far right at a meeting with bloggers organised by staff of Malacanang's National Security cluster. Photo by Raymund Villanueva, Kodao Productions
Marcial Belandres, far left; Rico Maca, 2nd from left; Arthur Tariman of National Alliance for Democracy, 3rd from left; and Nestor Apas, far right at a meeting with bloggers organised by staff of Malacanang’s National Security cluster. Photo by Raymund Villanueva, Kodao Productions

I met Marcial Belandres, a friend of Bucales and one of those datus linked to killings to Lumad leaders, during a Malacanang-organized meeting with bloggers.

He admits having killed former comrades. He has also been tagged as among those who killed of Henry Alameda, Campos’ predecessor, last year. Alameda’s wife identified him.

Belandres and Nestor Apas, another pro-AFP datu who claims to be the leader of the Talaingod lumad, say the NPA has eroded their role as tribal leaders.

Probed on this claim, they complain that their people have started questioning their decisions.

Apas seems to think Lumad under his “domain” have no freedom to make up their minds on issues. This is the root of his charge that the evacuees at the Haran mission compound in Davao City are victims of trafficking.

It is a claim shared by Catamco. Apas is unabashedly pro-mining.

I once asked a military officer – a Lumad from Bukidnon – what happens when a datu’s constituents actually disagree with him and want to leave the community to escape military harassment. His answer: the datu must prevail.

A study sponsored by the German federal government and aided by the NCIP, noted many violations committed in process of getting “free, prior, informed consent” (FPIC) from owners of ancestral lands. It also pointed out that some datu – traditionally with powers to act for their communities, had exploited the process.

Peace pact

The study also hinted at what may be the real cause of Apas’ and Belandres’ complaints: pro-mining datu were at times thwarted by constituents’ preference for one-person-one-vote process.

This, the datu take to be the handiwork of the communist underground.

Apas and Belandres spent hours peddling their peace process.

Belandres, who believes he should be rewarded with rubber and palm oil plantations for his exploits, said only the AFP shall be allowed to witness the “peace pact.”

Asked what happens if the Lumad refuse to accede to demands that they allow “development” in their areas, Belandres said this should be blamed on the rebellious NPA datu.

Asked how datu known to coordinate with government officials on behalf of their communities could be guerrillas, Belandres said many rebels do not carry arms –but that does not mean they are innocent.

Belandres, Bucales and Rico Mapa , among others, are datu who command the paramilitary forces in Mindanao.

The military trains and supervises these militia – as the governor of Surigao del Sur has repeated in interview after interview, hearing after hearing, as senators and rights officials of the government acknowledge.

Your lands or death

Datu Datu Tungig Mansumay, of the Talaingod Manobo
Datu Datu Tungig Mansumay, of the Talaingod Manobo

Datu Tungig Mansumay-at, a Talaingod Manobo, told me that with every incursion into Lumad communities, the military come with one message.

“The military tell us, ‘you, datu, when the NPAs are gone, since you are the one near the Pantaron range, you will get rich because we can facilitate projects under the government,” Datu Tungig said.

Deployment of government military units with militia in Mindanao has traditionally followed the path of big-ticket encroachment into indigenous peoples' lands. Graphic courtesy of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Deployment of government military units with militia in Mindanao has traditionally followed the path of big-ticket encroachment into indigenous peoples’ lands. Graphic courtesy of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Soldiers also equate peace with the “surrender” of the Talaingod Lumad and their enrolment in the area militia called the Almara, he added.

President Aquino himself approved the funding of these militia by mining corporations.

The military peddles that same line of the datu in Catamco’s hearing. Catamco loves spouting off on customary law to justify attacks against restive Lumad.

There are no civilians. There are only pro-government forces – or rebels. People who oppose government-sanctioned plans are rebels. And rebels are fair game for killings. 

This is the Philippines, APEC.

On the eve of APEC summit, spotlight on Lumad


PH leaders ignore cost of ‘development’ on social margins

(First of 4 parts)

As the Philippines rolls out the red carpet for leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member-states, its own indigenous peoples are in the spotlight as advocacy groups worldwide ponder how to stop “development” from bulldozing society’s margins.

A decades-long battle for the rich earth and the minerals beneath lies at the root of the upsurge in conflict across a huge swathe of Mindanao’s heartland in southern Philippines.

Deployment of government military units in Mindanao has traditionally followed the path of big-ticket encroachment into indigenous peoples' lands. Graphic courtesy of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Deployment of government military units in Mindanao has traditionally followed the path of big-ticket encroachment into indigenous peoples’ lands. Graphic courtesy of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

At the center are the Lumad, non-Muslim indigenous peoples. The Lumad, with a population estimated at 7 million, have fought for centuries against new migrants, retreating in the face of superior arms and socially engineered influx.

On the last frontiers of the Philippines’ “island of promise,” they are making their last, fierce, desperate stand against government-approved mining operations and plantations.

In this section of Caraga's Andap Valley complex, Lumad had built a thriving, self-sufficient community despite government neglect. Now, armed men on a killing spree have driven them out of their homeland.
In this section of Caraga’s Andap Valley complex, Lumad had built a thriving, self-sufficient community despite government neglect. Now, armed men on a killing spree have driven them out of their homeland.

Above them are crags unfit for the cultivation of food. Below them are the teeming urban centers that annually reap the deadly harvest of runaway development. Around them, armed groups of all stripes, battling for their hearts and minds.

Global support

Of the more than 60 indigenous folk killed under the Aquino administration, 53 are lumad, from the last parcels of pristine highlands that are targets of applications for mines and plantations.

The Philippine government largely frames the Lumad problem as an offshoot of Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency. Peace and social welfare national executives fret over the ballooning number of Lumad evacuees but are mum on the causes of displacement.

There have been 14 victims of four massacres. Four of the slain were minors, according to the human rights group Karapatan.

Throw in Lumad advocates, rights workers and environmental activists and the number of extra-judicial killings in Mindanao jumps to 144.

In these areas, Lumad leaders have been massacred. The root cause: their struggle against development projects encroaching on ancestral lands
In these areas, Lumad leaders have been massacred. The root cause: their struggle against development projects encroaching on ancestral lands

More than 70 indigenous people’s organizations across Asia have signed a statement, calling on Philippine government– host to this year’s APEC summit – to end the killings. 

Joan Carling, secretary-general of the Thailand-based Asia Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP), says at least 13 Lumad, indigenous peoples of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, have been killed this year — four every three months — by either state soldiers or paramilitary troops.

Forty thousand people, more than half of them minors, have been displaced by military and paramilitary operations. There have been 188 attacks on schools, hundreds of reported cases of harassment, including and arbitrary detentions, illegal arrests and torture, with children among the victims. Around 8,000 Lumad are now in evacuation camps. Read: Children are war targets in PH’s last frontiers

These grim figures barely hint at the real cost of the war for occupation of the indigenous people’s lands.

Displacement

From 46,000 to 50,000 government troops – 55 battalions, excluding engineering and intelligence units and those involved in civilian-military relations – are stationed in Mindanao.

AFP deployment in Mindanao
AFP deployment in Mindanao

The AFP, after decades of officially taking a back seat to the Philippine National Police (PNP) on matters of internal security, have taken the helm once more in the last phase of President Aquino’s term.

Their official goal: to break the backbone of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army.

Under the Whole of Nation approach, lifted right out of the US Special Forces’ manual of operations, almost the entire civilian bureaucracy has subsumed the delivery of basic services to fit the military agenda.

In the last year of Mr. Aquino’s rule, Mindanao’s landscape looks no different from the war laboratories under  the Marcos dictatorship or his scorned predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Military officials alternate between calling the victims of rights violations rebels and claiming the killings are an offshoot of a tribal war between anti-communist and pro-communist rebels. To an economist and consultant of the AFP’s pacification campaign, any lumad killed must be considered an NPA rebel.

It is a claim that flies in the face of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) acknowledgement that the August and September incidents in Pangatucan, Bukidnon and Lianga, Surigao del Sur were clearly extra-judicial killings.

The national government’s peace and social welfare executives fret at the “unsanitary” conditions of the Lumad evacuation camps and the presence of children. But they remain silent on the cause of evacuations.

Lumad have thumbed down the solution broached by the social welfare secretary– resettlement – saying this comes straight from the playbook of those out to take their lands. Read: Lumad nix resettlement

Birds of prey

Mr. Aquino pledged to overturn or “straighten” the errors of the Arroyo administration. Yet his government has adopted his predecessor’s vision of turning one of Mindanao’s most impoverished and conflict-prone region into Asia’s mining capital.

To the embattled lumad, the main difference is that even more land now is controlled by big corporations.

Mining concessions sprawl across more than 500,000 hectares of Mindanao. Eighty percent of these mines are on lumad lands. Plantations account for 700,000 hectares, 12% of the island’s agricultural land. A million hectares more are up for grabs.

These landmarks of economic development, combined with the Marcos government’s logging concessions-award binge to cronies, have gobbled up Mindanao’s forestcover, from 70% in 1900 to just six percent in 2011.

Areas that seldom experienced floods in the past now annually suffer deaths in the thousands, with huge boulders and felled logs crashing down into entire townships.

In the Caraga province of Surigao del Sur, reports of violence against the Lumad happen in the areas of the fiercest resistance to mines and plantations.

Graphic from abs-cbnnews.com
Graphic from abs-cbnnews.com

“In the last three years, every time the soldiers come to our villages, they always demand that Mapasu, our organization, gives up its resistance against mining,” according to Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Lianga Lumad leader Dionel Campos.

Michelle also lost a mentor on the same day her father died. Emerito Samarca, the head teacher of Alcadev, an award-winning Lumad alternative school, was found dead in the school’s main building on September 1. Campos killers’ had held him back as they forced students and teachers out of the compound.

Mapasu means “persevering struggle for the next generation” in English. The 22 communities under it are among the last holdouts against mining and plantation concessions in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex.

MINING - EXISTING OPSThe Andap Valley, which sprawls across nine municipalities, hosts  the biggest remaining coal block reserve in the world. It is also rich in gold ore.

More than 6,200 hectares in Lianga are counted in the blocs of approved mining applications for mineral production sharing under Philex Gold Philippines Inc. and Rosario Mining Development Co., Rosario Consolidated Mining Corporation, and Sta.Irene Mining Corporation.

Philex, is known to have caused the Philippines’ historically largest mine disaster in its mining project in Padcal, Benguet.

Another mining giant, Benguet Corp also has a coal contract that includes Lianga, aside from Marihatag and San Miguel towns.

Aside from Surigao del Sur, the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Sur are also rich in coal, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. The Department of Energy has given the green light to the establishment of coal plants in Surigao del Sur.

Rich earth, poor folk

The Mapasu community around Alcadev was famed for its self-sufficiency, which came courtesy of the counsel of Samarca and fellow agriculturists.

alcadev_harvest_0004The school’s 16-hectare compound produces enough crops to feed more than a hundred boarding students and teachers the whole year round. Two other farms, including a village cooperative, produce the surplus that have allowed Lumad to start livelihood in crafts.

They farm, they learn to love the land. And they eat better than peers in unorganised communities. (Photo courtesy of Alcadev)
They farm, they learn to love the land. And they eat better than peers in unorganised communities. (Photo courtesy of Alcadev)

The Lianga Lumad have trained a big number of indigenous health workers who volunteer in remote communities that have never seen government medical units. They even sent relief volunteers to provinces hit by super typhoon Haiyan, bringing food from their farms.

Yet that model has always been under siege. Mapasu has paid a high price for its independence and resistance. On Oct. 24 last year, Campos’ predecessor, Henry Alameda, was killed, also in front of his child.

One of the paramilitary men identified in Alameda’s killing surfaced in the aftermath of Campos’ death at a press briefing inside the AFP’s headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

MARCIAL BELANDRESMalacanang’s national security cluster also hosted a gathering for bloggers to present Belandres and three other pro-government datus.

Belandres blamed communist rebels for the Lianga massacre. The ex-rebel, who admitted having killed former comrades, demanded that Mapasu turnover its “communist datus” for an “internal Lumad peace pact” so that indigenous peoples could live in peace again.

Yet Belandres does not distinguish between the NPA and civilians, insisting supporters fall under the category of combatants.

When bloggers raised the possibility of Mapasu members standing firm against the entry of mining firms, Belandres called it a communist ploy.

The other pro-military datus in the gathering echoed the message repeatedly heard by Michelle: Mining is good for development and only communists would refuse that. A senior AFP commander in Mindanao also complained to an international human rights worker about stubborn Lumad who do not see the benefits mining firms can give to their communities.

Even back in 2009, military operations served the interests of mining firms. A report by Bulatlat.com said cited Lodestar Consolidated Holdings as recipient of the rights to mine 6,000 has. in Andap Valley. Opposition by Mapasu led to massive military deployment – and major evacuations by the Lumad.

Resistance

There is little doubt that the Andap Valley hosts communist rebels.  A study by a church group in the1980s said a loose alliance between the NPA and Lumad was able to limit the entry of extractive activities and logging concerns.

Some timber concessions remain in the Andap Valley but Lumad resistance – strengthened by rebel presence – have kept their gold, copper, chromite and coal reserves intact.

Now plantations are making greater inroads into the area. Belandres said his group has asked the government to reward them with livelihood – rubber and palm oil plantations.

Palm oil plantations of Filipinas Palm Plantation Incorporated (FPPI); Agusan Plantation Inc. (API); Dole-Philippines & Sumitomo Fruits (SUMIFRU) already cover almost 15,000 hectares in Caraga.

REAP - PALMINFOTARPThe new anti-plantation alliance, REAP, says oil palm plantations have doubled their spread in Mindanao from 23,478 hectares to 42,731 hectares in the last 10 years.

Rubber plantations expanded threefold, from 81,667 hectares in 2005 to 214,314.6 hectares by 2014.

On paper, Caraga is a “model for development.” It has eight wood-based companies and15 hydropower projects. It hosts 23 of the country’s 48 large operating mines —  20 nickel mines, 2 gold mines, 1 chromite mine and 1 cement 
quarry.

Kalikasan reports that seven percent of the region’s land area is covered by mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA). The government has also granted 23 existing exploration permits. Thirty applications are pending for production sharing agreements.

The department of environment in 2011 reported that mining projects in Caraga generated more than 1B taxes and fees. Official government statistics say poverty incidence dropped to 34.1% in 2012 form 43 % in 2009, raising its rank from poorest region to sixth poorest.

Photo courtesy of Caraga Watch
From the highway joining Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte, all around are scarred, red earth, the offshoot of nickel mining. Photo courtesy of Caraga Watch

Yet, the indigenous populations earlier displaced by existing mining concerns remain on the margins. They make do with seasonal work while struggling with damage to the environment and the loss of their culture — supplanted by the politics of patronage imposed by government and big business.

Those who labor to present an alternative to the government’s approved models, in turn, find themselves facing the barrels of its guns. (Next: Bai Bibi’s long fight to protect Mindanao’s heart)

Lumad Children : War targets  in PH’s last frontiers


Part I: Killing for Peace

The lad thought he had found peace. Bandam Dumanglay was making up for sleepless nights.

Nightmares had stalked his rest since August 9 last year, a  day that started with daydreams of wild catch and fishing with uncles and cousins. Then armed men accosted him in the woods and conscripted him to relay their grim message to residents of Mintake-I, Brgy Lydia, La Paz, Agusan del Sur.

The men were bagani, called “Lubog” in their Manobo community. Bandam knew them. Their leader, Ugjab Laygayan, said villagers had until 2 p.m. to vacate their homes – or face a massacre. Choppers would come with machine-gunners to finish off anyone who managed to scamper away from their guns, he warned.

Everyone must leave, Laygayan commanded; women and children included, and even the teachers of the RMP (Rural Missionaries of the Philippines) Literacy-Numeracy School.

Bandam’s reverie turned into a sprint to warn kin and neighbors. Within a few hours, they were diving and scrambling through the bush to evade warning fire. Bandam’s holiday became an overnight trek to the safer grounds of Libon village.

At the refugee center and for months after returning to Mintake, where the sight of torched homes greeted the Lumad, Bandam displayed signs of trauma – episodes of lethargy and despondent silence, alternating with a hair-trigger temper.

Agusan, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur -- "bakwit" (evacuation) has become a way of life for indigenous children in the last communities still holding out against the entry of mining firms and plantations on ancestral lands. (all photos courtesy of Kilab Multimedia)
Agusan, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur — “bakwit” (evacuation) has become a way of life for indigenous children in the last communities still holding out against the entry of mining firms and plantations on ancestral lands. (all photos courtesy of Kilab Multimedia)

The lad was relieved when his elders decided to relocate to Han-ayan, Brgy Diatogon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They had relatives and kin there.

At the refugee center and for months after returning to Mintake, where the sight of torched homes greeted the Lumad, Bandam displayed signs of trauma – episodes of lethargy and despondent silence, alternating with a hair-trigger temper.

The lad was relieved when his elders decided to relocate to Han-ayan, Brgy Diatogon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They had relatives and kin there.

alcadev lust

Reclaiming sleep

In the sprawling farms of Alcadev, Bandam healed and grew strong from daily faming activities and running across fields playing a rough version of soccer.

Talks with the school’s executive director, Emerito Samarca, calmed his troubled mind. His parents allowed Bandam, who loved cultural activities, to join other children boarders from more distant areas. After months of fatigue, he reclaimed sleep.

“He sleeps so deeply; it takes plenty of gentle shaking to wake up Bandam,” says Save Our Schools (SOS) Caraga coordinator, Lilian Laurezo.

Some nights, the boy needed “quiet time,” and would ask permission to sleep on a loft in a shed where they sheltered some animals.

That was were Bandam was in the early hours of September 1 this year when men from the “Magahat”, roused Alcadev teachers and students and forcibly marched them to the center of Han-ayan village. The group is the the military-backed paramilitary force in Surigao del Sur’s Andap Valley.

Bandam slept through the commotion. Then a gunshot startled him from sleep. He heard voices of men. He heard trampling feet. His heart thumped with fear. He wanted to check on his peers but heard the mean heading towards his direction.

Bandam knew discovery could cost him his life. That had happened in their old village whenever armed strangers came, sometimes in the company of government soldiers. He stayed put, huddled in a corner under the shed’s eaves. He wondered at the silence. He pondered how time to wait before leaving his shelter.

Then gunshots, many gunshots filled the night. The firing came from the direction of Han-ayan, where his family lived, where some of his classmates lived. Bandam’s dread mounted because no voices could be heard in the school grounds. From experience, he knew that kind of silence meant grave danger – or great tragedy.

Nightmare

He cannot remember how long he waited, his young mind conjuring all kinds of dire scenarios.

Bandam rushed out of the shed the moment he heard the familiar voices of friends and mentors. He saw white faces, tearful eyes.

“Si Tay Emok! Si Tay Emok!”

Bandom joined the rush to Alcadev’s main landmark, an airy, wooden building that housed the offices and the room of Samarca.

EmokThe children and young teachers found their Tay Emok sprawled on the floor, a pool of blood around him. They found the wound from the gunshot that disturbed Bandam’s sleep. They also found his throat slit from one side to another.

Now Bandam stays awake until late night again. More than a month since the murder of Samarca, and the public executions of Lumad leader Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo, Bandam and a hundred other students from Alcadev, and the 50 younger ones at the TRIFPS elementary school, still ask in anguish if they could have done something to save the men’s lives.

“It is survivors’ guilt,” says Gideon Galicia, a young volunteer teacher. He knows what he speaks of. Gideon wonders, sometimes tearfully, if he should have grappled with the men who held Samarca back as they were ordered to leave Alcadev’s premises. He had rushed from the male dormitory to the main building to protect the older man.

“To fight back at that point would have meant bloodshed. I could not risk the lives of the students,” Galicia says. He knew the men had violence in mind; one of them had already hit him with a rifle butt.

“Gideon did the right thing,” says another young teacher, Aivy Hora. “But he still feels guilt. The mind tells you the truth – there was nothing you could have done.”

“But your soul” – she holds a palm over her heart – “it is screaming.”

Aivy, very petite and slim, is often mistaken as a student. She and Galicia and Samarca are not Lumad. They chose to live and work with the community so that more Lumad could graduate and go back to teach in their communities.

That was the dream of Michelle Campos, the oldest daughter of Dionel, who was at her college class when she heard of the murders.

Michelle was Alcadev’s valedictorian, the pride of a father who never got the opportunity to study. Following his killing and the collective flight of the Lumad to neighboring Tandag City, Michelle has had to drop out of school.

She, too, has moments where she asks, “could I have saved Papa if I was there?”

Michelle, 17, quickly shoves the question away. She prefers to focus her attention on her mother and younger siblings. The girl who looked forward to the weekend singing, dancing and farming sessions with her father has taken on the burden of leadership, as one of the main spokespersons for Alcadev’s beleaguered youth.

How can we heal?

Social workers from government, religious groups and other private groups have been ministering to Lianga’s displaced children — and thousands others crammed into sanctuaries in Davao City, Bukidnon and North Cotabato.

Art work helps children of Lianga deal with their trauma. (Photo from SOSCaraga)
Art work helps children of Lianga deal with their trauma. (Photo by ManilaToday)

Laurezo, who documented the recent Mindanao-wide Lumad Children’s Congress in Cortez, Surigao del Sur, says some of the art play bring her to tears. The therapy brings out a melange of hopes and dreams mixed with grim realities. Some days, she says, hope gets the upper hand. Some days, it is darkness that reigns in the children’s imaginations.

Traditional wisdom says therapy aims for the day when a traumatised person can move on and get on with life. It is hard to move on when the attacks are sustained, coming with numbing regularity.

Michelle Campos, daughter of slain lumad leader, Dionel Campos. Photo by inday espina-varona
Michelle Campos, daughter of slain lumad leader, Dionel Campos. Photo by inday espina-varonaMichelle looks away at the question.

Michelle says:

“Anong ‘move on’? Matagal nang dumudugo ang lupa. Last year, pinatay nila si Henry Alameda. Tapos, si papa. At walang nakikinig sa panawagan naming buwagin ang paramilitary.” (What do you mean, move on? Our land has been weeping blood. They killed Henry Alameda last year. And now, papa. And nobody listens to our demand to disband the paramilitary.)

The other children saw the Magahat men force Campos to his knees and shoot him in the head. They saw the men beat Sinzo, shoot at him and fire around him as warning to the rest of the Lumad. They saw younger kids scamper away, screaming; their mothers, also screaming, chasing after them. They saw Sinzo fight for his life. They saw the desperate application of emergency aid. Their minds recall those few desperate minutes in slow motion, in full color.

The children say their minds went blank and then flared with red the moment they knew Sinzo was gone. They will never forget the sight of Michelle’s younger sister, Sheina, a grade 6 student at TRIFPS, kneeling beside her slain father, waving a strip of cloth to keep insects away from his face.

Sheina Campos, 13, keeping insects off the body of her slain father, Dionel, a lumad leader of Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Photograb from Kilab multimedia production, "Tum-od"
Sheina Campos, 13, keeping insects off the body of her slain father, Dionel, a lumad leader of Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Photograb from Kilab multimedia production, “Tum-od”

It is hard to heal, Laureza says, when no rational reasons seem to exist for the brutal attacks against their parents and mentors. While the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has sent food and other basic needs for the evacuees, it has been silent on the grave rights violations visited on Lumad children.

Instead, Secretary Corazon Soliman has offered “resettlement” as an option for the Lumad, a suggestion met with anger by youth and adults.

READ Displaced Lumad nix resettlement 

“She offers a ‘solution’ but she doesn’t even acknowledge the problem, which is human rights violations by paramilitary and military who are acting as protectors of mining companies,” Michelle pointed out.

Read: Slain Lumad leader’s child to PNOY: Your peace is of the Graveyard

Fighting Back

Michelle, Bandam and dozens of youth are part of the 700-strong Manilakbayan, which has just crossed the waters separating the Visayas from Luzon.

( VIDEO courtesy Altermidya: Michelle Campos on a #Manilakbayan2015 bus, says despite denials of not knowing her father’s killers, the military continues to operate with the Magahat paramilitary forces.)

The caravan arrives in Manila Monday to highlight the killings of Lumad defending ancestral lands from the encroachment of mining and plantation firms.

Fifty-six of the 71 indigenous peoples killed under President Benigno Aquino III’s administration are lumad. The human rights watchdog Karapatan and Save Our Schools (SOS) Network say 13 children have been killed by state forces under the incumbent Commander-in-Chief, four of them Muslims and ten Lumad.

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Operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and more than 20 paramilitary groups, some funded by mining firms, have displaced more than 40,000 Lumad – half of them children.

Unlike last year’s Manilakbayan, when few of the public paid attention to protesting Lumad, thousands are expected to welcome them next week.

Aside from militant support groups, students of various schools, including the big Catholic universities and colleges are readying the red carpet.  Showbiz celebrities, doctors, professionals, beauty queens and entrepreneurs have banded together to help feed the protesters and raised funds for Lumad schools. Musical artists are also preparing fund-raising and solidarity concerts.

At least two city councils – in Marikina and Caloocan – have come out with resolutions calling for a halt to the killings of Lumad.

Even youth normally pre-occupied with pop phenomenon have joined the campaign, rolling out a major drive for art supplies and books for the 87 lumad schools that have suffered attacks.

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From #StopLumadKillings Twitter thread
From #StopLumadKillings Twitter thread

Why schools and children?

Nine of ten Lumad children have no access to schooling. And yet the government has ordered the closure of three lumad school networks, affecting more than a thousand students.

Even as the Manilakbayan landed in Luzon, a barangay captain in White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, padlocked the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School, which is overseen by the  Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc (MISFI).

Read: Despite LGU, DepEd warning, village chief closes down lumad school

In defiance of warnings from the municipal government and the education department, barangay captain Felipe Cabugnason led a group of men in destroying the school fence and then ordering the school vacated.

“Get out. We don’t want you to be victims,” teachers quoted him as saying. Twenty student boarders, three teachers and the school administrator were forced to evacuate with livestock to Arakan, North Cotabato. They have taken shelter at the Parish of Our Mother of Perpetial help.

Arakan’s assistant parish priest Fr. Peter Geremia is a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. He has survived several assassination attempts. He called the attack in White Culaman as an insult to the memory of Tentorio and everyone who has helped Mindanao’s indigenous peoples.

Paramilitary forces were strengthened early in the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But the attacks on Lumad schools is a phenomenon that cropped up only under the government of Mr. Aquino.

The Armed Forces claims the farms of the alternative schools are food and logistics hubs for the New People's Army,
The Armed Forces claims the farms of the alternative schools are food and logistics hubs for the New People’s Army,

The AFP claims the schools are havens for guerrilla cadres. It has paraded several datus, including some already identified as killers of lumad civilians, and some former students of alternative schools who claim Alcadev and the Salugpongan network in Davao del Norte train children to be combatants.

The lush school farms, the military claims, also function as logistics hub for the New People’s Army.

But most of the young witnesses presented have stepfathers who are soldiers. The military’s claim that two minors killed last August in Bukidnon were rebels has been dismissed by no less than the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights.

Chairman Chito Gaston called the deaths extra-judicial killings, pointing out that aside from the two minors, two young male adults, the soldiers also killed a blind, 70-year old man. The lone survivor, also a minor, said the five were all members of his family. He identified the killers as soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Battalion and said they killed the men one by one, execution style.

The survivor also said the AFP later sent emissaries to his mother to negotiate “compensation” in return for their silence.

Read CHR: Lianga, Pangatucan deaths are ‘extra-judicial killings’

Witnesses at Dao, White Culaman say the village chief was in a company of men in civilian clothes who had the bearing and the haircut of soldiers.

The attacks on Lumad schools are a bitter pill for indigenous peoples who are just seeing the first generation graduating from high school.

Alcadev students and teachers at the Tandag City evacuation camp. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona
Alcadev students and teachers at the Tandag City evacuation camp. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona

Michelle, reacting to Iloilo Liberal Party Rep. Jerry Trenas call for a Department of Education review of Alcadev’s curriculum, said:

It is hard to heal, Laureza says, when no rational reasons seem to exist for the brutal attacks against their parents and mentors. While the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has sent food and other basic needs for the evacuees, it has been silent on the grave rights violations visited on Lumad children.

Instead, Secretary Corazon Soliman has offered “resettlement” as an option for the Lumad, a suggestion met with anger by youth and adults.

READ Displaced Lumad nix resettlement 

“She offers a ‘solution’ but she doesn’t even acknowledge the problem, which is human rights violations by paramilitary and military who are acting as protectors of mining companies,” Michelle points out.

Read: Slain Lumad leader’s child to PNOY: Your peace is of the Graveyard

Military officers have said they support a call by Liberal Party Rep. Jerry Trenas for a review of the curriculum of schools like Alcadev. Trenas claimed videos of Alcadev students show they are being taught to hate the government.

Michelle laughs and calls Trenas statements absurd. “We are not taught to hate the government. Life teaches us to hate some of the things the government does.”

She hurls a challenge at Trenas: “What does he want? That we fall on our knees and thank the killers of our people?”

Schools like Alcadev have a non-traditional program, often a euphemism for vocational education for children who cannot afford higher education. Despite a curriculum geared to agriculture, Alcadev’s students consistently pass the high school equivalency exams. Its role in improving agriculture practices and showing consistently high academic standards have earned regional awards.

There is no hiding, however, the militant identities of its students. The young scholars are proud to be so.

After all, Michelle points out, while other areas in CARAGA show the dire results of mining and other environmentally destructive activities, the 59,000-hectare Andap Valley remains relative pristine, “because we know how to fight for our land.” (To be continued)

Part II — Rape of the earth, proxy wars fuel unrest in Lumad lands

NO PARADISE LOST FOR LUMAD CHILDREN (on this 40th day of Grief and Rage)


The children will not forget. They will remember. They will march home — soon.

The 40th day of waiting for justice. The 40th day of outrage as eye witness reports belie AFP attempts to wash its hands of the atrocities committed by the militia it organised, trained and supervised.

Those who think the fever of elections will drown out the voices of lumad children, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, friends have seen nothing yet.

We, in the comfort of urban centres, we. too, must not forget. We cannot be silent as the lumad struggle against the maws of death.

Dawn over Alcadev, Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Paramilitary forces killed on Sept 1 the head teacher of the award-winning alternative school for indigenous children. (Photo courtesy of AlCaDev
Dawn over Alcadev, Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Paramilitary forces killed on Sept 1 the head teacher of the award-winning alternative school for indigenous children. (Photo courtesy of AlCaDev

In the cramped tents of their evacuation camps, the children remember: 
How their parents built a school with their own hands;
How that school gave them the strength to unite in defense of their ancestral land;
How that school provided the technology and knowledge to fill their stomachs so that young ones grew strong and tall;
How that school nurtured youth who have in turn given their lives to serving their people, as agriculture technicians, health workers and teachers
How a community thrived and attained self sufficiency despite government neglect;
How that community flourished, enough that it could send seeds and crops and food stock and aid givers to victims of Typhoon Yolanda;

Art work by Alcadev students
Art work by Alcadev students

How those who want to see the lumad grovel for charity and patronage could not abide that strength and thus targeted their education and livelihood;
How men slit the throat of a loving teacher who made them his family;
How men mowed down their elders with a brazen glee that only impunity can give;
How men torched the cooperative that allowed them to pour back their resources into the land;
How soldiers ignored the cries that rent the dawn and then later laughed and mocked the grieving;
How the President dismissed their plight and the truth that his minions were laying waste to land and lives; and 
How those who had stakes in the primacy of the military and the rich patrons they protect tried to excuse the killings by tagging dissent a crime.
The children know how it is to be hounded. The children see what happens to the land when the lumad are made too weak to fight off the birds of prey.
And the children know that what they have, these gifts that allow them to speak with courage and eloquence before people who may have thought the lumad their inferiors, these gifts are beyond the reach of the avaricious.
Because education has seeped deep, because education has taught them pride. Because education has given them hope and a vision of what can be. The lumad children will reclaim their land.
PADAYON! MAKIGBISOG, AYAW KAHADLOK!

Photo courtesy of Alcadev, words by author
Photo courtesy of Alcadev, words by author

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