Activists and indigenous peoples rights advocates advocate welcomed the “Lakbayanis” with a protest action in the foot of Mendiola bridge last Oct. 26.
“The Lumad are not just caught in the crossfire. They are the targets. Their schools are under attack. Their leaders are being threatened or killed. They are being forced to join paramilitary groups, the same paramilitary groups accused of gross human rights violations, The government only feigns concern for the Lumad,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan, said.
In the year’s Manilakbayan, the Lumad will bring before the Aquino administration the plight of the Lumad people from several communities in Mindanao. Many Lumad are facing harassments and threats and some of their leaders were killed and disappeared by members of paramilitary groups that were reportedly formed and armed by the Philippine military.
But the Sept. 1 killings of tribal leader Dionel Campos, chieftain Juvello Sinzo and Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development Emerito Samarca spurred anew a forced evacuation among Lumad people residing in Han-ayan, Diatagon village in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. As of this writing, no one has been arrested for these killings.
The Lakbayanis kicked off this year’s Manilakbayan last week. Manila-based activists first met the Lakbayanis last Sunday, Oct. 25. Yesterday, they marched along Taft Avenue to Bonifacio Shrine where a short program was held before they headed to Mendiola.
They were joined by delegates from other regions such Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog.
In Mendiola, tribal leaders slit the throat of a chicken as they held the ritual of “panubadtubad” as they call on Aquino to stop attacks against the Lumad.
“The dire situation of the Lumad communities has forced them to bring their demands and protests here in Metro Manila. They want to tell government, the people and world the truth about the worsening human rights violations in Mindanao. They are seeking justice and an end to the attacks on their schools and communities,” Reyes said.
Reyes added that these attacks are orchestrated under the government counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. Under such framework, Lumad resisting big mining corporations are being vilified as either members or supporters of the New People’s Army.
The ancestral domains are rich of minerals and natural resources. Tribal leaders have long assailed that the attacks against them are because big businesses want to encroach on their lands.
“We treasure our ancestral domains as part of a community that protects its culture. However, the opening up of natural resources – found mostly in our areas – to foreign investments destroy our communities due to the twin policy of militarization and plunder. As our communities are being plundered by corporate giants for profit, the military are deployed to secure these investments from protests and resistance,” Datu Jomorito Guaynon said in a statement.
The Lakbayanis have set up camp at the University of the Philippines where would be staying until October 31. From November 1 to 22, they would camp-out at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.