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In a historical caravan, the national Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan (Lakbayan) brought together the indigenous peoples (IPs) and the Moro people for one common cause – the struggle for our right to self-determination and just peace. From Luzon, Visayas to Mindanao, indigenous peoples and the Moro people, known as national minority, converged at the country’s capital from October 13-27, 2016, and fortified their unity into greater heights.

Lakbayan’s most important success was the formation of the SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination. Sandugo is a historical tradition of peace pacts by different tribes during the pre-Spanish colonization. Hosted by the University of the Philippines Diliman on October 14-15, 2016, the Sandugo was a clear testament of IP and Moro peoples’ unity and of the unwavering struggle of national minorities for self-determination and just peace.

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From the Cordillera region, the major tribes and ethnolinguistic groups were well represented in the Convenors of the newly formed Sandugo: Windel Bolinget (Kankanaey), Fernando Mangili (Ibaloi), Vergel Aniceto (Ibaloi), Joanna Carino (Ibaloi), Martes Buli-e (Kankanaey), James Tayaban (Tuwali), Andrew Pahiwon (Ayangan), Leo Belingon (Kalanguya), Juan Dammay (Kalinga), Piya Malayao (Bontok), Gerald Chopchopen (Sadanga), Emerita Dazon (Kankanaey), Susan Camarao (Tinguian), Ceasar Barona (Tinguian), Samuel Dian (Bago).

The Sandugo lead the series of peaceful and successful pickets and protest actions that followed, from October 17-27, at the national headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP); national offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Department of Justice (DOJ); and the US Embassy.

The protest actions underscored the long list of crimes committed by the AFP against the Igorots and other IPs in the country, the inability of the PNP to arrest paramilitary criminals in indigenous communities, the call for the abolition of the NCIP due to its crimes against the indigenous peoples, and the call for the DOJ to drop and stop the filing of trumped charges against the national minorities. On the other hand, the protest at the US Embassy was meant to call for an end to US control of the economic and political life of the country, and in support to President Duterte’s independent foreign policy.

A major highlight of the protest actions were the violent dispersals by the AFP during the protest in front of a gate of the AFP Headquarters on October 18, and by the PNP during the peaceful protest in front of the US Embassy on October 19. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance vehemently condemned the violent and bloody dispersals which clearly show the continuing discrimination and oppression of national minorities by the US and the State through the AFP and PNP.

Earlier on October 13, the northern Luzon delegates of Lakbayan, including the Cordillera Peoples Alliance delegation picketed the national offices of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC), Oceana Gold, Chevron and SN Aboitiz. Directly affected communities of Mankayan, Benguet; Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur; Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya also called for the closure of LCMC and Oceana Gold because of its environmental crimes and destruction to their communities and livelihood. In similar manner, the communities to be affected by Chevron and SN Aboitiz in Kalinga and Ifugao demanded the full recognition of indigenous people’s rights in the conduct of the Free Prior Informed Consent processes.

Lakbayan also highlighted the richness of culture of the national minorities. Throughout the duration of the Lakbayan, colorful indigenous attires were accompanied by the marching sounds of gongs and indigenous instruments. From pickets, protest actions to programs at the Kampuhan, cultural performances were transformed to tell the rich history, issues and aspirations of national minorities. Every song, dance, pattong, kullilipan, uggayam and other cultural forms were further expressed the continuing struggle and challenges for the defense of land, life and resources.

Finally, Lakbayan brought the struggles of national minorities from their ili to the national seat of power. Lakbayan is also a historical converging point for national minorities to share their stories and songs of victories, resistance and hope in their struggle for self-determination and just peace.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance thanks and commends the overwhelming support and solidarity of various groups and institutions to the Lakbayan of National Minorities, including the University of the Philippines Diliman which hosted the Lakbayan, and friends and supporters of the CPA.***

 

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