Letter to the Editor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

This is in reference to the article published September 14, 2015, page A4, entitled Gov’t backs probe of ‘lumad’ killings by Jerry Esplanada, Julie Aurelio and Nico Alconaba, particularly on the AFP’s claim that the Lumad killings are “tribal conflict” (second and third paragraphs to the last).

The Lumad killings in Mindanao are State perpetrated and committed by the AFP and its paramilitary. It is not a result of two tribes engaged in tribal war or conflict. The killings of Lumads in Mindanao are not committed in behalf of one tribe, if indeed the individual soldier who committed the act belongs to a tribe, but under the command of the AFP. The soldiers and paramilitary, even assuming they are from a Lumad tribe did the killing under the orders of the AFP command and not under the command of the tribe. It was done under the State policy of Oplan Bayanihan. Therefore, the killings of Lumads are not tribal war but State terrorism.

In fact, there is no such tribal war in the communities where the atrocities took place or as described by the AFP in the same article (“tribal war in the context of counter-insurgency”). The killings are acts of the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani that are organised, trained and financed by the AFP for supposed anti-insurgency, but with clear and intense attacks to the Lumad, Lumad  organisations and Lumad schools. It is clear the Magahat-Bagani is a paramilitary of the AFP and not of any Lumad tribe. No less than Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, 4th ID Commander, admitted that “The Magahat force has been known to be anticommunist and is perceived to be closely associated with the government or military”.

In the Cordillera, and now in Mindanao, it has been a standard operation procedure of the AFP to lie to cover-up for their crimes so no one is held accountable, thus, the AFP impunity continues. Worst, the AFP instigates tribal conflict as its divide-and-rule tactic to  create violence in indigenous communities. Now, the AFP insinuates that tribal war is the root cause of the killings, when there is  no tribal war in Mindanao.  What kind of AFP do we have in the Philippines?

We believe that the AFP is in psychosis on how to cover up its responsibility and is now  resorting to desperate tactics of inventing tribal conflicts. To the Lumad tribes victimised by these AFP killings and terrorism, to seek justice and revenge for our tribes and people is to mobilise the tribe in assertion of our right to self-determination. The AFP is insinuating you are in tribal war, then declare one — a tribal war into a peoples’ just war for justice.

We raise these concerns on a day of historical significance for the world’s indigenous peoples — the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), of which Philippine government is a signatory,  in the spirit of genuinely upholding the rights of  indigenous peoples in the Philippines.  Yesterday, September 13 marks 8 years of UNDRIP yet the Aquino regime and the AFP has completely failed and violated its international obligation in upholding the rights of indigenous peoples. The UNDRIP is supposed to be implemented in the Philippines to correct the historic injustice perpetrated by the State against indigenous peoples.  ***

Windel Bolinget

Chairperson, Cordillera Peoples Alliance