Recognition and redistribution, not-fear rhetoric for lumad
As the country celebrates National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on August 9, it is saddening that indigenous peoples remain to be maligned and largely misunderstood. With President Duterte announcing in his press conference after his second State of the Nation Address that he will “bomb” lumad schools for espousing communist ideals, lumad have been effectively vilified as enemies of the State.
The diverse indigenous peoples in Mindanao, collectively known as lumad, are by nature peace-loving. What they yearn for is recognition and protection of their rights to their ancestral domain and lands, as well as basic services coming from the government. For several decades, however, they have been caught in the crossfire between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) and Bangsamoro rebels. More than that, their ancestral domains (similar to other indigenous peoples in the country) have also been plundered by logging and mining companies. This has resulted in the lumad’s displacement from their lands and the loss of their livelihood. Worse, it has led to the steady decay of their culture and identity.
The greater lumad population are the victims. The belligerence of some of them are mere reactions to the historical oppression that they have experienced in the hands of the government and military, mining and logging companies, and various rebel groups. The President’s threat to bomb lumad and their schools simply does not help uplift their lives as it doubles the victimization of these people. Their vilification not only unfairly depicts them but it solidifies the reason for mainstream society to continue discriminating against them. Worse, it even feeds into the rhetoric of the NPA, proving the insensitivity of the government.
Dealing with lumad and other indigenous peoples requires recognition and acceptance of their historical and continued oppression. It also requires placing them at the forefront of the government’s redistributive agenda for basic services. These courses of action allow the government to focus on the cause of the problem and not simply address the symptoms of their belligerence. This is clearly the better approach compared to the fear-inducing rhetoric against the lumad that unwittingly depict them as the problem that should be blasted.
RAYMOND MARVIC BAGUILAT, law reform specialist for the University of the Philippines Law Center-Institute of Human Rights
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