‘Lumad’ now even more set on pursuing genuine dev’t
Sept. 1, 2016 marked one year since the Lianga massacre. And the lumad are already set to go back to a home where food crops grow aplenty, their children can run free, and the mountains stand witness to their culture’s rich history.
But that day evoked great sorrow, outrage and sympathy for the lumad of the towns of Lianga and San Agustin in Surigao del Sur. It was Sept. 1, 2015, when their beloved leaders, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo, together with Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) were brutally murdered by the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group. The nearby communities were thus forced to evacuate their homes out of fear for their lives, since the paramilitary group also threatened to kill all of them if they chose to stay.
Hardships and uncertainty awaited the lumad evacuees at the Surigao del Sur Provincial Sports Complex in Tandag City, which came to be known as “Barangay Oval” and served as their home for a year.
Meanwhile, soldiers of the 402nd Infantry Brigade set up camp in the middle of the lumad communities in Km. 9 and inside the school compound of Alcadev. It is very disappointing that a year has passed and justice has been elusive to the victims, their relatives and the entire lumad community: Members of the paramilitary group continue to roam freely the mountains of Lianga; and none of them has been caught despite the military’s encampment and presence in the area.
But with the success of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), hope has once again sprung in the hearts of the lumad. They are optimistic that with a ceasefire declared by both sides, the soldiers will return to their barracks, and they themselves can finally go back home and restart their normal lives.
They had organized various activities as they looked forward to their homecoming a day after the commemoration of the Lianga massacre. They had planned a series of farming-house-school rebuilding efforts upon their return home.
The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) assists these efforts through its sustainable agriculture program and capacity-building projects. We also support their call asserting their right to their ancestral domain and to self-determination. The lumad are now even more determined to continue their struggle for genuine people’s development.
—SHARLENE O. LOPEZ, officer in charge, Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, firstname.lastname@example.org
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