Unchecked, arbitrary military powers under ML suffocating indigenous communities in Mindanao

“The Philippine military’s design for the communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur is not just one of a quick execution of individuals, similar to the work of their paramilitary minions in September 2015. This is systemic, brutal and cruel persecution of an entire community in defense of their ancestral land by denying them security, food, water, medicine, and other necessities. Essentially, this is State terror compounded by the unchecked, arbitrary powers of the military under Mindanao martial law,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
(Photo from Save Our Schools-Caraga)
On July 30, 2018, 1,607 evacuees from 14 Manobo communities in Lianga and San Agustin, Surigao del Sur were forced to leave their Brgy. Diatagon sanctuary because of ongoing military threat, harassment and intimidation. Humanitarian aid such as food were also blocked and controlled by the 75th IBPA and the PNP. The said communities left their homes on July 16 after military personnel encamped in their communities for a month, resulting to several violations. They stayed at a gymnasium in Diatagon only to evacuate yet again.

The Lumad have linked the persistent militarization of their communities to their continuing fight to defend their ancestral domain. During the Indigenous Peoples Leaders’ Summit in Davao City on February 1, 2018, President Duterte declared that investors of his choosing are welcome to enter the ancestral lands of the Manobo in the Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur. The ancestral land of the Manobos are situated on top of the largest coal reserves in the world.

“This is the everyday reality of our Lumad brothers and sisters. State forces have long terrorized their communities to pave the way for extractive industries and the implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan. Their ordeals have no end in sight, especially with martial law and the Duterte regime’s militarist response to their struggle,” said Palabay.

Palabay also cited the threat and harassment experienced by students and teachers while on their way to Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. On July 31, 2018, 164 individuals composed of teachers, students and supporters of the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking and Services (CLANS) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Inc. (MISFI) were on their way to the municipality of Kalamansig for the burial of Dulangan-Manobo leader Pakingan Gantangan when they were harassed and blocked by police officers from Lebak, Sultan Kudarat. Policemen threatened the group of trumped-up charges of illegal assembly.

Pakingan Gantangan was a Lumad leader who died of heart attack while in a protest camp in front of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Koronadal City on July 21. He was among the community leaders who demanded the immediate release of a Permit to Operate for Lumad schools from the DepEd Region XII. Gantangan is also the father of volunteer teacher and political prisoner Jolito Tolino.

“The Duterte regime is cruel and cold-blooded, and this trait is fully embodied by mercenaries in government. Under martial law, everything is arbitrary and power is perpetually abused. All these injustices are borne by indigenous communities, slowly crippled and choked by emboldened State agents. We thus call for the immediate pull-out of military troops in communities, an end to threat and harassments, and support for the right of our Lumad brothers and sisters to self-determination,” concluded Palabay.