DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Instead of the usual fan signs from celebrities, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte posed for a picture with a serious facial expression holding white paper with the text, "STOP LUMAD KILLINGS".
On Monday evening, September 14, Duterte met with leaders of support groups that advocate the protection of indigenous communities from violence.
Duterte has yet to issue a statement about the recent incidents but the mayor has maintained a consistent stand on the alleged human rights abuses against Lumads, asserting that the indigenous peoples are the foundations of Mindanao.
More than 700 Lumads are presently staying in Davao City after they were displaced from Talaingod in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon after alleged government forces and the anti-communist paramilitary group Alamara occupied several villages. Human rights groups reported about cases of harassment, vilification and indiscriminate firing that caused massive fear among the Lumads.
On July 23, about 500 policemen and government agents, allegedly led by North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco, conducted a "rescue operation" in an evacuation center at the UCCP- operated Haran Center to force them to return home.
The event resulted in violence after the police forcibly opened the gates of the center and stormed in with their truncheons and shields. This left at least 17 Lumads, including a tribal elder, and two cops injured.
Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler
Earlier, Duterte said the violence affecting Lumads has been there for decades and that the presence of paramilitary groups is intensifying the conflict.
"The problem there is really deep. It is really ideology that's working out there. The Alamara is the armed component of the government that was let loose in the mountains and they strike fear in the hearts of the Lumads," Duterte said.
Duterte said he will stand firm on his position that the military should step back to allow the Lumads to return to their homes.
"So ang kailangan dyan paalisin muna ang military (So they should kick out the military first). They should get out of that place so that the natives can return," Duterte said.
"And the Alamara, it has to be controlled. Otherwise, they are allowing a situation where a Filipino will kill a Filipino," Duterte added.
Presently, about 2,890 internally displaced residents from the towns of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, San Miguel, and Tago are staying at a sports complex in Tandag City after a violent rampage reportedly committed by paramilitary groups. There are ongoing military operations in the area.
Majority of the displaced Lumads came from the village of Diatagon after the Magahat-Bagani killed Emerito "Emok" Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV). Samarca was found hogtied with a stab wound and his throat slit open inside a classroom last September 1.
ALCADEV is a privately-operated but government-regulated learning institution that provides basic and technical education to Lumad children in communities rarely reached by government services.
After killing Samarca, the armed men peppered with bullets Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo while the entire village was watching.
Campos was a community leader and the chairperson of the indigenous people group Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alansa sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), which is known for its firm position on the protection of ancestral lands and its campaign against human rights violations targeting indigenous people.
The Magahat-Bagani, which is said to be created, trained, armed and funded by the military, also razed to the ground the building of a community cooperative not far from the school compound.
Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel earlier bared that they are aware of the role of the military in the creation of the Bagani, and requested for its immediate disbandment, but their appeals allegedly fell on deaf ears.
The Lumads said that aside from the counterinsurgency campaign, the Bagani and the military stepped up their aggression in the area to fast-track the entry of mining and logging operations. – Rappler.com