THOMASIANS SHOWED their support for the Lumads to fight for their rights and to end the killing of their fellow tribesmen in Mindanao in an advocacy forum and cultural presentation held Friday at the Benavides Auditorium.
Asst. Prof. Mark Anthony Abenir, community development director of UST Simbahayan, upheld the University’s support for the Lumads’ campaign for a society free from discrimination, violence, and development aggression as it is not different from the Catholic Church’s advocacy to protect the dignity of people and to attain a peaceful society.
“Napagkaisahan po natin na susuportahan ng pamantasan ang mga kapatid nating Lumad dahil [ang] kanilang adhikain ay atin ding adhikain bilang Katolikong pamantasan,” he said.
Moreover, Rev. Fr. Gallardo Bombase Jr. O.P., of the Dominican Province of the Philippines challenged Thomasians to stand with the Lumads.
“Kung talagang tayo ay Kristiyano, mahalin natin ang ating mga kapwa at tulungan ang mga nangangailangan. Narito tayo upang tulungan ang ating mga kapatid na galing pa sa Mindanao [at] mga kapwa natin nilikha ng Diyos.”
Lumads resist the government’s interest in mining operations and other business plantation expansions in their ancestral lands as their lives depend on it, said Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao. “Kung hindi kami dedepensa [at kung] di naming proprotektahan ang naiwang lupa ng mga ninuno namin, saan pupunta ang aming mga salinlahi? Saan kami mamumuhay?”
Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas Documentation Officer Joan Jaime added Lumads are not mere victims of the attacks but a direct target of the military because of their resistance. “Inaatake ang mga Lumad hindi dahil collateral damage sila ng magkabilang panig. Sila’y direktang target kasi lumalaban sila.”
Angie Ipong of the National Federation of Agricultural Workers, on the other hand, said the agricultural plantations of bananas, pineapples, sugarcane, rubber, and palm oils rendered the Lumads landless.
Meanwhile, #SaveOurSchools Network Lead Convenor Kahrlo Felipe Manano said that through Oplan Bayanihan or the government’s counter-insurgency program, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have reportedly attacked 87 schools catering to Lumads.
“It goes to show for us that the Department of Education (DepEd) is one of the agencies collaborating with general plan of the Oplan Bayanihan to target the Lumad communities. Inaatake niya (DepEd) ‘yung mga paaralan na labag sa kanyang mandato na i-ensure na lahat ng batang Pilipino ay natatamasa ang karapatan sa edukasyon,” he said, citing nine out of 10 Lumad children have no access to education.
Furthermore, the Bugta to Bata Cultural Group and Lingang Di Kanak Nawa Cultural Group presented their struggle for their rights to life, ancestral lands, and self-determination through a dugso (war dance) and a song number, respectively.
The advocacy forum and cultural presentation were part of the event titled “Dialogue of Life: Our Continuing Journey with the Anawim (Rural Poor)” spearheaded by UST Simbahayan, UST Rotaract – Pharmacy Unit, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.
Last Sept. 1, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development executive director Emerico Samarte and Lumad leaders Dionel Campus and Aurelio Sinzo, who were known for their firm campaign against the repression of Lumads, militarization in their communities, and plunder of their resources were killed by the paramilitary group Magahat in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. F – KRYSTAL GAYLE R. DIGAY