‘Slow genocide’ of the ‘lumad’
Dear President Duterte,
Please, I beg you. You have warned the “lumad” not to join the New People’s Army. You must also warn them not to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The survival of the lumad depends on their neutrality.
The lumad are being massacred into extinction over the past two decades. The soldiers kill those lumad perceived to be sympathetic to the NPA. The rebels kill those lumad who are known supporters or informants of the AFP. The lumad end up killing each other while soldiers and rebels drink beer in their camps.
The lumad do not turn to the NPA because they are hungry. They do so because they are oppressed by the AFP. Poverty is not the cause. Your promise of livelihood is good, but it is not the solution. Livelihood will just be destroyed by the internal war.
There have been short-lived but successful civilian-led peace zones in lumad territories in the past, like in the Arakan Valley and Sagada. The AFP and NPA are not allowed to enter these zones with arms.
But the peace zones were undermined by suspicions of violations from both sides. The peace zone concept can be revived, but there must be sincerity on both the AFP and NPA sides. This is the only hope for the lumad in crisis.
Mr. President, you must do everything in your power to tell both the AFP and the NPA to stop recruiting the lumad. You can order the AFP directly and suggest to the NPA through peace talks. You must also revive the peace zone concept.
If these last solutions are impossible, then the ongoing “slow genocide” cannot be stopped.
The lumad might kill each other in a vicious cycle of violence until there are no more lumad left.
BERNIE V. LOPEZ, firstname.lastname@example.org
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