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Letters to the Editor

‘Community activists are not terrorists’

/ 05:00 AM May 04, 2018

We are teachers, students, concerned New Zealanders and Filipinos in New Zealand. We admire the courage and dedication of teachers, volunteers, church and community workers who are working together to make education accessible to indigenous children through the 215 “lumad” schools in Mindanao. We are very concerned that the children and teachers in these schools are facing grave military abuses as reported by the Save Our Schools network:

26 schools used as military camps

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53 schools closed or threatened with closure

12 schools destroyed and divested

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29 cases of trumped-up charges and illegal arrest and detention

Indigenous peoples are the country’s courageous earth defenders. They are not terrorists. Standing up to defend their land, environment, culture and their children’s right to education is the right thing to do. We find it disturbing that the government’s latest terrorist listing named nearly 600 Filipino human rights defenders, anticorruption advocates and social justice activists, including 10 lumad leaders such as Datu Isidro Indao, Matigsalog-Manobo village chief, council member of the Pasaka Lumad Confederation in Southern Mindanao and an active member of the parent-teacher community association of the lumad school run by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.

Clearly, the government welcoming giant mining firms in Mindanao is the biggest threat to the survival of lumad communities and the environment—230 of the total 447 approved mining applications can be found in ancestral domain, covering 542,245 hectares or 72 percent of the total mining applications in the country.

Labeling tribal leaders and other community activists who oppose mining and military abuses as “reds” or “enemies of the state” is obviously giving licence for state Armed Forces to kill or illegally arrest them.  Already, 98 indigenous peoples were illegally arrested and over a hundred faced trumped-up criminal cases; 22 unjustly detained and 39 fell victims to extrajudicial killings. We join the global community of human rights defenders in calling on the Philippine government to immediately scrap the baseless, malicious and arbitrary terrorist listing of community activists as terrorists.

CAMERON WALKER, Auckland Philippines Solidarity; HAROLD AQUINO, Filipino Students Association, University of Auckland; KEEARA OFREN, Amnesty International on Campus; PETER GARRICK, Justice and Peace Commission, Catholic Diocese of Auckland; KEVIN MCBRIDE, Pax Christi; MURRAY HORTON, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa; DAVID ROBIE, Pacific Media Centre; MAIRE LEADBEATER, West Papua Action Auckland; RUTH COOMBES, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; MIKEE SANTOS, Migrante Aotearoa NZ; DEL ABCEDE, Asia Pacific Human Rights Coalition; NIK NAIDU, Coalition for Democracy in Fiji; JANET ROTH, Auckland Cuba Friendship; DEACON CHRIS SULLIVAN AND OVER 100 SIGNATORIES

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TAGS: education, Indigenous People, Lumad schools, Mindanao, mining, New Zealand, Teachers, terrorist list
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