Money first before ‘lumad’
“When the King is concerned with justice, the nation will be strong, but when he is only concerned with money, he will destroy his country” (Proverbs 29:4, Today’s English Version).
Indeed the country is being destroyed. Our “lumad” or indigenous peoples are being harassed, intimidated, threatened and killed. Many of their leaders have been extrajudicially exterminated because they defended their ancestral land and protected their people. The perpetrators—the military and their paramilitary forces—justify their crimes with allegations that the lumad are New People’s Army combatants or supporters.
The lumad are then asked to leave their communities; otherwise they will meet the same fate.
As a result, lumad tribes have fled their communities. About 700 Ata Manobo from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte, and San Fernando, Bukidnon; and almost 3,000 from Surigao del Sur.
Why are they being driven out of their ancestral lands? The reason is money. Big foreign mining corporations want to exploit the resources of lumad lands which are known for their richness in gold, nickel and copper. However, the lumad are resisting. Hence, the militarization of their places of abode.
Money has become more important than people!
As pastors of the flock, we are appalled by this priority of our government. Our officials have been neglecting these mountain people for decades—no social services like schools, hospitals, water, electricity and other basic necessities.
But with the support of churches and NGOs, the lumad managed to help themselves. They built their schools and they learned how to read and write. They were taught basic hygiene and were able to practice their culture. They were happy with their lives.
But with the coming of the military and the paramilitary forces, the lumad are now in deep trouble. Their schools have been closed and turned them into barracks. Their teachers, whom the military plans to replace with soldiers, have been either threatened or killed. They are forced to leave their homes, their lands and their livelihoods.
Rep. Nancy Catamco, chair of the House committee on the indigenous peoples, accompanied by the military, the police, representatives from the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, visited the refugees in Davao City in order to “rescue” them, claiming they had been “kidnapped” by UCCP pastors and other church people who have been influenced by the left.
Criminal cases were later filed against 15 individuals including UCCP pastors for kidnapping, human trafficking and holding people against their will, but the Davao City prosecutor dismissed the cases, saying these have no basis.
The refugees are not used to life in the city. They say that they don’t need pity; they need justice. They want to return to their homes, the lands and their livelihoods—to once again earn their living with dignity. But they have a firm demand before they go back: disband and disarm the paramilitary units and pull out the military from their communities. In other words, stop the militarization of their communities.
We support the just demand of the lumad. It is their right to go back to their own homes and be assured to live in peace. This is the least that the government can do—leave them in peace.
“Soon the wicked will disappear; you may look for them, but you won’t find them; but the humble will possess the land and enjoy prosperity and peace” (Psalms 37:10-11, NEV).
—BISHOP ELMER M. BOLOCON, UCCP, executive secretary, MOST REV. DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ, JR., DD, cochair, BISHOP FELIXBERTO L. CALANG, IFI, cochair, Ecumenical Bishops Forum
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