Cardinal Tagle to military: Leave the Lumad in peace

Paterno Esmaquel II
Cardinal Tagle to military: Leave the Lumad in peace
In one of his strongest statements, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle tells the military to leave the persecuted indigenous communities in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – Leave the Lumad in peace.

In one of his strongest statements as church leader, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Wednesday, November 11, appealed to the military to leave the persecuted Lumad or indigenous communities in the southern Philippines.

He also urged paramilitary groups to lay down their arms to ensure peace in Lumad communities.

Nananawagan kami, unang-una, sa ating mga pinuno sa pamahalaan. Pairalin sana nila ang kapayapaan,” Tagle said in a statement after he visited a Lumad community staging a protest in Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila.

(We would like to appeal, first of all, to the leaders of our government. We hope they can make peace prevail.) 

Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, the world’s biggest network of Catholic charities, called as well for aid for the Lumad, who had to flee violence in their communities in the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao.

Nangangailangan sila, higit sa lahat, ng pagkain, tubig, gamot, malasakit, at pang-unawa. Tulungan sana natin sila. Gawin rin sana natin ang lahat ng ating magagawa upang makabalik sila sa kanilang mga tahanan at lupain, at mamuhay doon ng ligtas at matiwasay,” the Manila archbishop said.

(They need, most of all, food, water, medicines, compassion, and understanding. Let us help them. Let us do all that we can to make them return to their homes and their lands, and to live there safely and decently.)

Tagle’s presence in Liwasang Bonifacio is striking in itself. Tagle does not usually attend protest movements, much less speak in these events. 

One of the last times he did was during the Million People March in 2013, a huge protest against corruption in government.

He spoke at the Lumad camp site despite his hectic schedule in Manila, having just returned from the Synod of Bishops in Rome and preparing for another trip to Rome in the next few days.

CBCP to gov’t: Probe Lumad killing 

Tagle’s latest statement comes as hundreds of Lumad stage a protest in Manila to demand justice and call for peace. The violence in Lumad communities has killed at least 13 people as of September 1, according to activists. (READ: Manila students welcome Lumad

Earlier, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also dared the Aquino administration to investigate the Lumad killings in Mindanao despite the alleged culprits’ links with the government.

“The CBCP asks the government for an honest, thorough, impartial, and speedy investigation so that the guilty may be held to account for their wrongdoing,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said.

In his strongly worded statement, Villegas also warned against “refusing to hold accountable those to whom the administration so eagerly extends its mantle of protection.”

Church leaders issued these statements after a paramilitary group, on September 1, allegedly murdered a school director and two Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur. Days before this, a reported clash with the military killed 5 alleged communist guerillas in Bukidnon, also in Mindanao. (READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

Karapatan, a human rights group, described the suspects as members of the paramilitary group Magahat Bagani Force that is working with the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, has denied any involvement in the death of Lumad leaders.

Read the full text of Cardinal Tagle’s statement below:

Nakalulungkot at nakababagabag ang mga nangyayari sa ating mga kapatid na katutubo sa Mindanao. May ilan na sa kanila ang namatay at pinaslang. Marami na ang napilitang lumikas at iwanan ang kanilang mga tahanan at ang mga lupain ng kanilang mga ninuno. Nawala ang kanilang kabuhayan. Natigil ang pag-aaral ng mga bata. Higit na nahirapan ang mga matatanda, mga may karamdaman, mga bata at kababaihan. Sinisira ang kalikasan. Umiiral ang kaguluhan, ang karahasan, ang kawalan ng katarungan at kapayapaan sa kanilang pamayanan.

Winika ni Hesus na ang gawin o hindi natin gawin para sa “pinakahamak sa ating mga kapatid” ay ginawa o hindi natin ginawa para sa kanya (cf. Mt 25: 40,45). Kaya nga, sa nangyayari sa ating mga kapatid na lumad sa Mindanao, kinakailangan tayong tumugon at kumilos.

Nananawagan kami, unang-una, sa ating mga pinuno sa pamahalaan. 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. Nanawagan kami, kapwa sa militar at sa NDF, na gawing “peace zones” ang lugar ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo. Ikalawa, humihingi kami ng tulong para sa ating mga kapatid na lumad na napilitang lisanin ang kanilang mga tahanan, at ngayo’y nasa mga “evacuation areas.” Nangangailangan sila, higit sa lahat, ng pagkain, tubig, gamot, malasakit at pang-unawa. Tulungan sana natin sila. Gawin rin sana natin ang lahat ng ating magagawa upang makabalik sila sa kanilang mga tahanan at lupain, at mamuhay doon ng ligtas at matiwasay. Ikatlo, umiral sana ang katarungan, at mapanagot ng mga kinauukulan ang mga nagkasala at pumatay sa mga pinuno ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo.

Kinakailangan nating lahat na umupo, mag-usap, at magtulungan upang tunay nating mabigyang-lunas ang kalagayan ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo sa Mindanao. Mayroon tayong lahat na naging pagkukulang at kasalanan sa nangyayari ngayon sa ating mga kapatid na lumad. Ngunit katulad nga ng ipinapaalala sa atin ni Papa Franciso, sa kanyang pagtatalaga ng darating na taon sa Simbahan bilang “taon ng habag at awa”, binibigyan tayo ng pagkakataon na magsisi at magbago. Sa tulong at awa ng Diyos, na siyang tunay na nagpapanibago sa lahat, pagsumikapan sana natin na ituwid ang pagkakamali, isaayos ang lahat, at pairalin ang kapayapaan.

Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.