Hey, Bongbong, here’s a dictionary


Just in case all the partying during your dad’s glorious reign sidelined basic vocabulary lessons, here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of “gain”:

So let’s talk about “value” or what we hold dear.

Life is at the top of the pyramid, dude. Cavalier would be a kind adjective for your dad’s attitude towards the basic right to life. At last count, more than 75,000 have filed for compensation for human rights abuses under daddy dearest.

True, they’re still killing, torturing and arresting activists and journalists. Not that you’d be weeping tears for them.

But AFTER Edsa, the courts at least offered some chance of redress.

Under the Marcos dictatorship, everything was hostage to the whims of your father’s henchmen, including that fossil who owes his freedom – in the face of plunder raps – to the Supreme Court.

Your father’s regime cut short the lives of some of the country’s best and brightest. You’re alive and hale enough to pollute the air with your lies. Allowing even idiots their right to life is a real gain, don’t you think?

Had those guys with the same dictatorial bent succeeded in their putscht, you and yours would be buried in some deep pit.

Also, unless you think “Constitution” is a synonym for toilet paper, we do have a chance now to challenge autocrats who abuse power.

That right, which we wrested back from your dad’s stranglehold, led to landmark decisions on the pork barrel. Perhaps that’s a gain wasted on the son of a kleptocrat, who propped up his regime by borrowing gazillions to keep his minions happy.

bongbong2You don’t think people care about what happened under two decades of tyranny? And your empirical evidence is the dearth of people asking you questions about martial law and human rights violations?

It never occurred that people don’t bother asking you because of all the news reports detailing your memories of some warped wonderland?

Yes, news. We’re even printing your pratling. You’re allowed to peddle your fantasy. Of course, we’re also allowed to shoot down your lame fiction. I can see why you don’t count this as a “gain.”

“Gain” also includes the breakup of the monopolies your dad showered on his pals.

joel abong2
Joel Abong, the boy who became the poster child of famine in Philippines’ Sugarlandia — on www.revolutionrevisited.com

Go check out what the thousands of agricultural workers in Sugarlandia think of your dad and his cronies — not that opposition landowners were any better. Their children are still poor but no longer look like starving, sub-Saharan waifs.

Read what UcanNews reported way back in 1985:

In a pastoral letter draft in July, Philippine bishops said the famine “raised the spectre of a generation of brain-damaged children” …

Severe third-degree malnutrition among Negros children reached 7-8 percent, according to a UNICEF survey in July. This doubled the 1984 rate.

UNICEF officials told UCA News some countries declare 3 percent an emergency.

Doctor Violeta Gonzaga of La Salle College in Bacolod City says the third-degree malnutrition rate was 10 percent or more in August.”

There have been gains for the sugar workers — no thanks to the old-style oligarchy and the new-style kleptocracy. Those gains weren’t gifts from anyone but the fruits of their struggle.

You think life under Ferdinand Sr. was so flush?

The Businessworld points out:

“The average GDP growth rate from 1972 to 1985 (Marcos’s last full year) was all of 3.4% per annum. Per-capita GDP grew annually at less than 1% average over the period — more precisely 0.82%… For comparison, the average GDP growth from 2003 to 2014 — even under a bumbling and quarrelsome democracy — has been 5.4% per annum — with a rising trend. On a per capita basis, GDP today is rising 3.5% annually, more than four times the growth rate under the dictatorship.”

It’s laughable when you lament the lack of jobs that force people to brave foreign shores. The dearth in employment that pays enough for a decent life is true. But dude, the diaspora was launched and encouraged by your dad to mask rising unemployment and bring in foreign reserves needed to pay for the debts he racked up – to keep the party going.

 

You think all young Filipinos are so guillible? Let’s see what happens in May.

I may not think much of those seeking to lead the nation. But you talk like gains are on the account of a few leaders. In fact, gains have been won despite leaders. And young people know this.

Duh. This country owes you and your family  nothing for nothing.

The Philippines isn’t beyond saving. It can be made better. It will be made better. You and yours  are the last thing we need.

 

PH climate change plans favour big business, threaten IP lands


*Featured image by Kathy Yamzon, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – National Capital Region

Thousands of Filipinos joined today’s global climate change march led by the Roman Catholic church to protest a mitigation program that they say favors big business.

As President Benigno Aquino Jr. readies for his talk in Paris on behalf of nations vulnerable to climate change, environmentalists in the Philippines say the race to build coal-fired power plans and start mining operations on indigenous peoples’ lands erode his credibility.

Environmental groups like Kalikasan, Caraga Watch and Greenpeace International say the push for coal sets back the country’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 70% within the next 15 years.

Even the government’s ambitious re-greening program covering more than 7 million hectares of denuded lands has come under fire because of the focus on plantation cash-crops that include oil palms, the source of the deadly Indonesian haze that recently blanketed Southeast Asia.

Community farm - Lianga caraga1
Lumad of the Andap Valley complex in Surigao del Sur fear their farms will wither and die with the entry of coal mining firms .

Caraga Watch, which monitors investment projects in Southern Mindanao, links these big development projects to the spate of attacks on Lumad.

More than 60 indigenous leaders in Mindanao have died in resource conflicts since 2010. Ten of the dead were children. The attacks, which almost always precede the entry of mining and plantations have displaced more than 40,000 Lumad, according to the human rights group Karapatan.

Many of the rights violations are traced to paramilitary groups that received funding, arms and training after Mr. Aquino allowed the creation of investment defense forces.

Dirty coal

Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan forecasts Mr. Aquino’s short talk next week before the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as “grandstanding double talk that will ultimately toe the line of the United States and other top big polluter countries.”

He pointed out that coal and other fossil fuel power projects in the pipeline comprise more than 80 percent of all upcoming energy projects in the Philippines.

“In order to make climate solutions work for our nation, we need to put pressure not only on the world leaders, but most especially on our country’s leaders themselves,” Bautista said.

Sen. Loren Legarda has warned that the push for coal jeopardizes the country’s commitments to ease climate change.

“They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe,” Legarda stressed.

alsons saranggani bigger photo
Alson’s Power Group will start operating its new coal plant on the shore of Sarangani Bay by January next year. Environmentalists fear damage one of the country’s richest fishing grounds. The company counters that it is using “the latest clean coal technology.” 

The government’s energy program originally called for a 30-30-30 energy mix with natural gas, coal and renewables each accounting for 30% with 10% reserved for alternative technologies.

Legarda, however, said coal now dominates the country‘s energy mix, accounting for for 42.5% of power generated. By 2020, she added, coal would account for 56% of the mix.

“Barring any intervention, this will further increase to 75% by 2030— the highest share of coal among countries in Asia,” Legarda said.

Twenty-three new power plans are starting operations in the next five years.

“By embracing coal, the Philippines loses its credibility in fighting for a good climate change treaty,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.

Government’s coal program ignores the Greenpeace’s warnings in its 2012 report:

“From mining to combustion, coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels. A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal … Coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel and coal mining is responsible for 8-10% of human-made methane emissions globally.”

Threat to Lumad lives

Michelle Campos lost her father, Dionel, to a September militia attacked linked to coal mining. Soldiers acting on behalf of mining firms are demand a halt to Lumad resistance in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex, she said.

While Lumad huddled in a displacement camp, mining firm Abacus brought in mining equipment and personnel into the valley, according to Caraga watch.

MINING - EXISTING OPS

Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the environment department show half a dozen mining firms, including some responsible for horrific disasters, preparing to start operations.

Coal mining contracts cover 6,000 hectares in Lianga, Campos’ hometown, where militia killed her father, an uncle and the head of a Lumad school for “poising the minds” of IPs against extractive industries.

The town hosts the world’s biggest coal block reserve, according to Caraga Watch.

Coal, the country’s major lignite reserve, can be found in three of its provinces: Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The biggest bulk of coal reserve is said to be found in Bislig and the Andap Valley Complex which covers the municipalities of Tandag, Tago, San Miguel, Cagwait, Marihatag, San Agustin and Lianga in Surigao del Sur.

Aside from approving coal mine applications, the government is pushing construction of coal-fired power plants in Surigao del Sur and nearby provinces.

Mr. Aquino promises peace and greater economic standards from his development thrust.

The Ibon Philippines think tank, however, notes that most of the financial gains from mining — the country’s mineral reserves are valued USD 1.387 trillion or five times the country’s 2013 gross domestic product —  go to the big private firms.

Resource conflicts, meanwhile, put much burdens on local government units whose please to disband paramilitary forces have been ignored by Mr. Aquino.

MINING - AREAS OF CONFLICTS

“When we protect our ancestral lands we also protect all Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans, from environmental devastation and food insecurity,” Campos stressed. “When President Aquino talks of development and peace, he means the peace of the graveyard for our people.”

 

 

 

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.

Lumad hold fast, defy orders to dismantle camps for APEC


So many people are calling out, “Peace! Peace!” on behalf of the thousands of Lumad forced out of homelands because of military and paramilitary offensives. Many of these would-be saviors are the same ones urging “development” of indigenous people’s lands, citing the billions of dollars waiting for Lumad and country from the proceeds of mines and plantations.

Seven hundred Lumad are in town to protest what they say is government’s deliberate neglect of their crisis. Their charge is legitimate.

Sixty of them, including 12 children have been murdered by soldiers and paramilitary troops; close to 200 schools have been attacked or closed, by or on the instigation of military officials.

Human rights violations include giving Lumad peasants only so much time to work their fields – you go past three hours and your are interrogated for being a suspected supporter of the New People’s Army.

To their plaints, the government responds thus:

  • Go back home and then we’ll discuss your problem.
  • You can’t live under these conditions. We’ll resettle you while we look for solutions to your problems. (In Lianga, where 3,000 people have evacuated, there are approved applications for mines and plantations, only pending proof of “social acceptability”. The Lumad are being hounded precisely because they reject these the entry of these projects.)
  • If you don’t want resettlement, we’ll just split you up and send you to nicer facilities.

The solutions address issues that are irrelevant to the Lumad. As one famously told Rep. Nancy Catamco during a tumultous Davao City “dialogue”: Of course, we stink, because conditions are less than ideal. But they would rather smell than die, thank you.

On the actual conditions that fuel displacement, the answer is silence or manipulations to cover up the truth. Read AFP apologizes to UN expert

Who has really acted on Surigao Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel’s repeated statements that paramilitaries are creations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines? The perpetrators of the Lianga massacre are not just known to the military; they actually hold camps within hailing distance of AFP facilities.

The AFP claims it knows nothing of the paramilitary. Yet even as Sen. TG Guingona held hearings at the Lumad displacement camp in Tandag City, he was receiving reports of more operations by the same group – in the company of soldiers.

Army spokesman Benjamin Hao makes a claim – only the New People’s Army oppresses the Lumad. Military officials must live in a parallel universe because the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights has tagged at least two incidents as extrajudicial killings. Scout Rangers were identified as the killers in the Pangantucan massacre in Bukidnon. They even sent emissaries to broker a settlement.

The government of President Benigno Aquino III is pretty much known to ignore problems until and unless these blow up in their faces. Then they engage in spins, enough spins to make themselves dizzy. They stonewall, they dodge, they do anything but address the problems of their own making.

Yes, the Lumad crisis should be blamed on Mr. Aquino. He approved the creation of militias funded and organized by mining firms and assorted big investors, but trained and supervised by the AFP.

Even when mining firms clearly violate regulations, they are given a free pass, especially when the companies are owned by allies of Mr. Aquino. Yes, even when the Supreme Court has ruled on these violations.

Malacanang is in a tizzy now.

Mr. Aquino wants to showcase Filipino “hospitality” for the leaders of member states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Aside from interrupting life as we know it in the national capital region, he sent aides at the Presidential Security Group, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to convince Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to rescind the permit given for the Lumad camp at Liwasang Bonifacio.

They have given the Lumad until Nov. 12 to disperse. The Lumad say, it ain’t happening. They will not be swept aside. They will not allow a cover up of the real cause of their displacement.

BAI BIBI
Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay says the government will not drive the Lumad out of Liwasang Bonifacio.

As Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay told professors and students of the University of the Philippines, the NPA is not the target. The Lumad are. They are the targets because what is at stake is not “peace” but that lands – their lands –which investors need for mines and plantations.

Where the Lumad have been “pacified,” the land dies, said Bai Bibi.

“They want us to go home to die. Because we will die, unless we give up our lands,” she said through an interpreter. “And when we give up our lands, we will also die.”

In Caraga, which the Philippine government is touting as Asia’s mining capital, the lands of Lumad who have capitulated are examples of environmental tragedy. Read: Profiles of Destruction 

The Lumad are bracing for more attacks, this time in the national capital. Their many supporters, who have vowed to stand with them, will be taking turns hosting activities at the Liwasang Bonifacio.

The equation is simple to Bai Bibi. They refuse to die. They refuse to yield. The only recourse is to fight back.

LUMAD STAY AWAY FROM CATAMCO HEARING — for many good reasons


The invitation came late, but that wasn’t the reason why representatives of 700 Lumad at the #Manilakbayan2015 snubbed Rep. Nancy Catamco’s hearing on indigenous peoples.

Makabayan, the militant bloc at the House of Representatives also ignored Catamco.

First, there is a pending resolution for a hearing to hear the complaint seeking her ouster as chair of the House Committee on Indigenous Peoples. Second, Catamco and her allies, during her privilege speech, had called for a multi-committee investigation.

Makayaban legislators agreed to that. It would have tackled the Lumad problem in a comprehensive manner, with the committees on IPs, human rights, environment, national security and practically all aspects of governance listening to the Lumad themselves.

Catamco bewailed the absence of Makabayan, saying solutions cannot be solved by protests and calling her hearing the right venue to seek resolution of the Lumad problem.

Rep Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna issued this statement. 

Farcical and hypocritical. This is how Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate described the ongoing hearing on the lumad issues at the House Committee on National Cultural Communities led by Rep. Nancy Catamco.
“How can the lumad bakwits expect an impartial hearing in an atmosphere where Rep. Catamco is the principal accuser, witness and the judge rolled into one?” Rep. Zarate said.

Who is Catamco? She is the Liberal Party representative from North Cotabato. She likes to call herself diwata (goddess) in her Facebook page and press releases.

She is the woman who came and tried to “save” the Lumad at Haran, bringing with her military officers and the Alamara — the same forces who forced out the Lumad from their villages by dint of arrests, tortures and killings. She brought the same forces who forcibly took over schools and homes of the Lumad in the name of “peace”.

In her zeal, Catamco refused to listen to the displaced Lumad — insisted they first return home before any of their plaints are listened to. She harangued them and then called them stinky. (Said the Lumad: Of course we are; evacuation is a difficult time, but we would rather be here than die there.)

She followed up the insults with threats. And then with an attack that shocked the good people of Davao City, where the Lumad had sought sanctuary at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran mission.

'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)
‘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)

Catamco came with a big force of cops in a raid that injured many of the people she claimed to love. She made out Bai Bibi — yes, Bai Bibi — as a victim of trafficking. She blamed the victims of that violence, saying their stubbornness caused the melee.

This was Bai Bibi’s response. 

The Armed Forces gleefully went to town with Catamco’s “human trafficking” fantasy and then overreached by ascribing the same flame on United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani,

In very explicit language, Beyani fumed:

Let me be absolutely clear, the indigenous persons in Davao are not victims of human trafficking. I was explicit in my discussions with the senior AFP representatives on multiple occasions, and indeed at my Press Conference that the indigenous persons concerned should under no circumstances be considered to fall into the category of trafficked persons.

The indigenous peoples whom I interviewed informed me that they relocated to this facility freely and in response to the militarization of their lands and territories and forced recruitment into paramilitary groups operating under the auspices of the AFP. My reference to their being ‘manipulated’ related to the attempt to forcibly move them out of the UCCP facility without proper and adequate consultation with them.

I therefore consider that the AFP statement by the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) in its news release of 7 August that the lumads (Indigenous People) in Davao City are victims of human trafficking is incorrect, unacceptable, and represents a gross distortion of my views on this issue.

READ: UN expert appalled at distortion of his views by Philippines Armed Forces  

Obviously, Catamco and her military pals have one single strategy. Repeat lies and repeat these again. They want peace only on her own terms and that of the government, which has sent shock troops to clear the way for mines and plantations.

So why should the Lumad come to her party?

Later, the blog on the proceedings of that sham hearing.

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.

Slide1

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.

Slide1

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