February 4, 2016

In these most difficult times, the Igorots in the north express their solidarity with the Lumad in the south.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) calls for an immediate stop to the continuing attacks against the Lumad in Mindanao in the guise of national security and development. The attacks against the communities and organizations of Lumad especially in the provinces of Bukidnon; Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Compostela Valley is leading to ethnocide, humanitarian crises and lawlessness. But what is deeply disturbing and calls for the strongest condemnation is the escalation of attacks against children and students of Lumad alternative schools.

At least 56 Lumad including children were killed in Mindanao under Aquino’s term. More than 20,000 individuals fled their communities, half of which are children. They continue to live under dehumanizing conditions in evacuation centers. Other cases include 99 cases of harassment, 9 incidents of community bombings, 54 cases of forced evacuations, rape, enforced disappearances.

In January this year, at least two children were killed by the Alamara, a paramilitary group created and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and big foreign mining corporations. Not contented with their killing spree, the AFP is also filing trumped up charges against members and leaders of Lumad communities and their organizations. Dulphing Ogan, Secretary General of Kalumaran, a confederation of different indigenous tribes in Mindanao and partner of CPA, was charged with a trumped up case along with 52 others. Earlier, another 190 members of peoples organizations were also filed with similar trumped up charges.

These are not simply ordinary and isolated cases. In fact, these are planned and systematic violations with impunity which clearly aim to silence the opposition of the Lumads. This is ethnocide.

The biggest mining operations in Mindanao and the vast commercial plantations covering a total of roughly 631,775 hectares, is situated within or near Lumad ancestral lands and communities. History instructs us that for indigenous peoples, land is a source of life. For the Lumad in Bukidnon; Davao del Norte and Surigao del Sur and elsewhere in Mindanao, their strong and organized resistance denies the entry of destructive projects into their ancestral lands. In response, President Aquino deployed at least 50% of the AFP in the early months of 2015 in Mindanao, especially in areas where there is strong people’s opposition against mining, plantation, logging and other forms of development aggression. Since then, AFP in cahoots with the dreaded paramilitary groups committed grave crimes against the Lumad and humanity in their objective to silence the Lumad and pave way for the entry of destructive projects.

The Aquino regime cannot simply deny and ignore this. Aquino must be held accountable for these crimes against the Lumad. Being the Commander-in-Chief, he allowed his men on the loose and became mercenaries and killing machines for the big mining and plantations in Mindanao. And despite local and international uproar on the Lumad killings, Aquino is playing deaf. The terror in Lumad communities continues with impunity.

Like the Lumad, the Igorots share the same story and enemy in the name of development aggression and militarization. Like the Lumad, our people have been subjected to brutal State repression in their continuing struggle for the defense of land, life, resources and rights. Like the Lumad, the Igorots suffered under the Aquino regime with at least 10 victims of extrajudicial killings. Aquino’s term is ending within few months but still no justice for the Ligiw family, William Bugatti and all the victims in the region.

The struggle for land, life, resources and rights is just and legitimate. Like the Lumad, we will never be cowed thru the use of force and deception from the State and multinational companies. Like the Lumad, we call for the pullout of military troops in our communities and the disbandment and dismantling of paramilitary groups such as Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army. Like the Lumad, we will continue to draw strength from our forefathers and martyrs to continue the struggle for a just society where the rights of indigenous are respected. ***