MANILA, Philippines – “Stop militarization and plunder in Minda-Now,” said the banner held by members of the Mindanao Bishops’ Conference as they led the march to the Manila Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on Wednesday, November 1.
The bishops, priests, and religious from Catholic and Protestant churches then joined the protest in front of the MGB’s central office along with environmental activists and other Lumad supporters.
“Our hearts continue to ache as we hear, document, and validate the dastardly acts that have been committed against our Lumad brothers and sisters,” the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) said in a statement.
“We listened to the testimonials of internally displaced Lumad, analyzed the patterns of violations and their alleged motivations, as well as studied the dynamics of militarization, so-called ‘development’ interests, and the resistance of Lumad communities to impending plunder of their ancestral domain Our unity to #StopLumadKillings has been affirmed by Church people across the country and around the world,” PCPR stressed.
The indigenous peoples of Mindanao and their supporters arrived in Manila on October 25, nearly a week after their long journey from their communities.
The caravan participants, who are called Manilakbayanis, travelled from Surigao City to Eastern Visayas, before crossing over to Luzon island, highlighting their call to stop alleged human rights violations in various Lumad communities.
End mining operations on ancestral lands
Manilakbayan participants lamented that the MGB allowed the mining operations in the ancestral lands of the Lumad. They claim the operations have resulted in widespread environmental destruction and rights violations to clear the ancestral land of its indigenous people.
Demonstrators called out the MGB for selling out to mining companies the riches of land which should belong to Filipinos including indigenous peoples.
MGB Director Leo Nazareno went out of his office to listen to the protesters. The Lumad challenged the official to order mining companies to pull out of their ancestral lands. He responded by telling the Manilakbayan group to issue formal complaints against the operations, but the Lumad said they have been waiting for action to their complaints for 20 years already.
Call for peace
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle earlier visited the Lumad camp in Liwasang Bonifacio and read a statement appealing for peace in the Lumad communities. (READ: Cardinal Tagle to military: Leave the Lumad in peace.)
“Pairalin sana nila ang kapayapaan. Nangangahulugan ito ng paglisan ng mga hukbong militar sa lugar ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo, at gayundin ng pagbuwag at pag-alis ng mga armas sa mga grupong para-militar,” said the Cardinal.
(Let peace prevail. This means the military must pull out of our brothers and sisters’ lands and paramilitary groups must lay down their arms.)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also previously urged an investigation of the killings. The CBCP condemned the murders and its links to a paramilitray group.
Tagle reiterated the bishops’ statement, asking that justice be sought and the responsible groups be held accountable for their crimes.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, has consistently denied any involvement in the killings and the groups linked to the killings are from outside their ranks.
DepEd also released a statement in response to the allegations of negligence and complicity in the attacks on various Lumad schools. – With a report from Bea Orante/Rappler.com