MANILA, Philippines – Just as activists, Lumad, and Muslim marchers from Mindanao were packing up right after the State of the Nation Address (SONA), cops invited their leaders to a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte Monday night, July 25.
In a Facebook post, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said that Duterte “engaged them in a conversation” in a lounge inside the House of Representatives.
“We talked about peace and how the President wanted to devote more resources to social services once the armed conflict was resolved. He talked about how the Lumad can return home without fear for their safety,” Reyes told Rappler after meeting the President.
Reyes said it was a long meeting that started at 7 pm and ended at 8:30 pm.
“It was a gesture we truly appreciated. A lot of firsts indeed in the president’s first SONA,” Reyes said.
Earlier in the day, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, went onstage during the rally near Batasan to assure hundreds gathered there, including the Lumad and Muslim marchers from Mindanao, that the police were there to protect them.
Thousands of marchers from Mindanao traveled to Manila hoping to bring to Duterte’s attention their concerns about alleged militarization in their communities.
According to activists, the march dubbed Manilakbayan 2016 is a people’s action supporting the first SONA of Duterte, the first President from Mindanao.
KALUMBAY Regional Lumad Organization chairperson Datu Jomorito Goaynon, one of the caravan’s leaders, shared the ordeal they went through just to reach the country’s capital.
“Kinahanglan nga magpadayon kami sa pagpanawagan sa paghunong sa militarisasyon sa among mga komunidad ug sa pagpaningil sa saad sa bag-ong Presidente nga ipull-out ang mga military sa among komunidad. Lisod, kapoy, ug puno og sakripisyo kining Manilakbayan 2016, apan dili kini babag para sa amoa nga mga lumad na ipaabot sa bag-ong administrasyon ang padayon namo nga panawagan alang sa among katungod para sa kaugalingong paghukom uban ang among katungod diha sa among yutang kabilin.”
(It is important for us to continue our call against militarization in our communities and to ask for the President’s pronouncement to pull out the military troops in our communities. Manilakbayan 2016 is hard, tiring, and full of sacrifices, but these should not be a hindrance for us Lumad to register our calls for our right to self determination along with our right to our ancestral lands for the new administration.)
In his SONA, Duterte announced: “To our Lumad brothers, the government has issued you ancestral certificates covering vast tracts of land especially in Mindanao.”
The President also looked for the Lumad marchers, suggesting that they should be inside the Batasan because “the building is theirs anyway.” – Rapper.com
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