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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Another way of killing ‘lumad’

/ 12:10 AM September 28, 2015

PERHAPS BECAUSE we have been so used to seeing indigenous peoples as touristy objects in many of our contrived festivals, we are suddenly stopped in our tracks when we see them assume a militant role. We admire indigenous peoples as they are paraded in native, colorful attires because that is about the only role we are prepared to give them in our body politic. The moment they fight for IP causes, we actually hesitate to give them a voice.

The lumad are the object of exploitation by various interests—by both the Left and the Right, by big business and mining interests—all of which see them merely as ignoramuses. Can they be blamed for having opted to take a more public platform to air their grievances? In truth, many of us are appalled that they have done precisely that—as we are not ready to hear lumad voices. We have ensconced ourselves in a society that feels comfortable and safe at seeing the lumad as spectacles but not at listening to them as voices of assertion.

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One must not be quick to point out that just as some lumad in Mindanao have become pawns in military operations, others have opted to side with the New People’s Army. It would be shallow to judge them from the options they make. Exploitation is nuanced. It takes the form of very particular contexts for each lumad locality. Why blame the lumad then when they make their own choice in response to circumstances most of us are ignorant of? That is their right. It behooves us to understand the particular reality they face in their own locality.

To simply label #StopLumadKillings as a propaganda of the Left is to be ignorant of the reason the lumad have chosen that path, if at all true. On the other hand, to simply say that more lumad have been killed at the hands of the NPA than at the hands of paramilitary groups is creating a false dichotomy. It simply glosses over the fact that they have been designed by society to be vulnerable. What we must do is to help them survive that vulnerability.

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The fact that the lumad have taken on that spectrum of responses to exploitation simply tells us how astounding in fact has the breadth of lumad exploitation become. Even politicians pay them mere lip service.

Lumad exploitation by any perpetrator must be stopped. The congressional “diwata,” who wanted to deliver to their tormentors the lumad who sought sanctuary in Davao City, is just as lost as most of our society which is rudely ignorant of indigenous peoples. And she is as lost in the quagmire of her own self because she herself is actually a lumad. (I believe that she has lost that identity.) One exploiter cannot be eliminated by replacing him/her with another. It was an insanely complete misjudgment of what ails lumad society. There was a signature campaign to unseat her from the chairmanship of the congressional committee on indigenous peoples’ affairs. We wonder how that has progressed. She is, by the way, a member of the “daang matuwid” party.

Indeed, the most palpable silence on the lumad killings comes from President Aquino himself. When Malacañang is silent, we can begin to doubt if it is hiding a secret. For it is a secret no more—there are indications that both Malacañang and the military have given the imprimatur on the operations against the lumad.

The most preposterous idea to ever come out of Malacañang is in the works. During deliberations in Congress on the 2016 national budget, officials of the Department of Education in the Davao region admitted there was a plan to close down some 24 schools set up by the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and replace them with schools run by—hold your breath—soldiers.

As far as we know, STTICLC schools are community-based schools voluntarily set up and maintained by the Talaingod Manobo with the support of missionary groups in the hinterlands of Davao del Norte.

A copy of a letter from Josephine Fadul, the Davao del Norte Schools Division superintendent, to the DepEd director for Region XI, Alberto Escobarte, “requested” the closure of the STTICLC schools.

In that letter, Fadul virtually gave away Malacañang’s participation: “Should this request for the closure of said schools be granted, in its stead, this Division requests permission to implement the creation of a public high school in Butay, Talaingod, utilizing military personnel as para-teachers as has been previously discussed and agreed upon during our meeting with the Regional Intelligence Committee… last 23 April 2015.” Which indicates the possibility that this was orchestrated by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

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In a hearing of the House committee on appropriations, Fadul also confirmed that intelligence officers of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were present during the April 23 meeting. This means AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri was shown to have been caught lying with his pants down.

Iriberri had told Congress that the military played no role in calling for the closure of the lumad schools. So who subscribed soldiers as para-teachers? In short, AFP officials lied to Congress.

Why don’t we just make the lumad dance? That should ensure their effective degeneration into the social outcasts of society we have designed them to be.

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