[Welcopme remarks to ADDU multi-stakeholder Dialogue on the Normalisation of the Lives of the Lumad in Mindanao, ADDU, October 15, 2015]
The news about the deaths of our Lumad brothers and sisters in Mindanao truly concerns us.
We gather first in the full recognition of the rights of our Lumads to their way of life, to the religion of their choice, to their traditions, to their ancestral domains. With the Philippine Nation we recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.
We recognize the rights of the Filipino people and its private or foreign partners in development to engage in projects that should contribute to the economic benefit of all.
But we insist that the Indigenous Peoples are part of that “all” and that their rights should never be violently subsumed or surreptitiously subverted in the pursuit of national development.
We believe that the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police must defend not only the interests of the development projects and their owners or funders, but must defend the rights especially of the marginalized and excluded, especially when they are the hapless victims of development aggression.
We regret and morn the alarming number of violent deaths of Emerito Samarca, the Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Livelihood and Development (ALCADEV) and the Manobo leaders, Dionel Campos and Datu Belo Sinzon. Recently also the death of Leoncio Arig, the Teduray defender of his people’s ancestral rights against his understanding of the effects of the proposed BBL and against mining. We regret the deaths suffered by the Ubo-Monobo of Mt. Apo in defence of their ancestral domains against the land-grapbing of a religious sect. Recently one of their leaders, Bai Beatrice Colmo, in an address to the CEAP, lamented: “Slowly they are killing our culture and our traditions, sometimes violently, and nobody seems to care.”
We regret the deaths, violence and injury to civic order perpetrated by the New People’s Army in their quest to protect the environment and defend the victims of development aggression. We look however with grave concern as the indigenous peoples are coopted into and victimized by revolutionary violence.
We lament and bitterly regret the decision yesterday of President Aquino to approved the formation of Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary Units (SCAA). Unlike the Cafgu that are organized and armed by the military (and so by the State) the SCAA are organized, armed and commanded by private interests. They are private armies organized and armed by private groups with private money to defend private projects that may often out number and out gun local law enforcement units. When that happens who will defend the inalienable human rights of the poor, the marginalized, and the idingenous peoples? We insist that this SCAA can only add to the violence in the region, where the greatest victims will be the indigenous peoples.
In this context, while it is alleged that damage incurred by the Taganito mines owned by Nickel Asia Corp in partnership with Sumitomo Metal Mining Co has reached 3 billion pesos, no accounting of the losses of economic rent to the Filipino people through the mining project under the unjust Philippine mining act of 1995 is offered.
This is contrary to what Pope Francis has been advocating in his encyclical, Laudato Si. He urges that the indigenous communities be treated as principal dialogue partners in any development project that affects their land and not be regarded as a mere afterthought.
“For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.” (LS 146)
Welcome to this session of Pakighinabi towards the normalization of the lives of our lumad sisters and brothers.
To Bai Beatrice Colmo and the other representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao: We care. We are concerned. We do not have all the answers. But we are willing to journey with you for answers in truth.
Clearly we will not be able to discuss all the problems related to the lumad of Mindanao. This shall only be a beginning as we provide space today for dialogue and focus on lumad issues in the Davao region.