Carvajal: Hope for Lumads | SunStar

Carvajal: Hope for Lumads

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Carvajal: Hope for Lumads

Friday, September 15, 2017

LUMAD is a Cebuano word which anthropologists use to refer to indigenous peoples (Bagobo, T’boli, Tausug, etc.) of Mindanao. The latter’s plight recently came to disturbing light when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) threatened to bomb their schools for allegedly breeding rebels.

With Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, who worked with Lumads in a former life, at his side I thought PRRD would know better than to make this threat. He and Evasco should know that most NPA and Muslim fighter-recruits come from the rural poor (lowland farmers/fishers and upland Lumads) because this is the sector that government neglects the most.

Poorest of all are the Lumads. Hence, it is no surprise that both NPA and ISIS are recruiting fighters from their ranks. They’ve had it up to here with government’s failure to issue Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) and to provide them with their most favored social service which are fully-staffed and fully-equipped schools for their children.

Like lowlanders, Lumads also see education as a way out of their marginal existence. But the problem is that budgeting for Lumad schools hugs the bottom of government’s priorities. Lumads are mostly left to bayanihan-build their own schools and secure private local or foreign operating funds through Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s).

The biggest expense is teacher’s salary. Hence, these schools in the absence of steady government, and/or intermittent private, funding are open only when there are enough volunteer teachers. But the lack of volunteers was starkly illustrated at one time by this one Catholic priest’s numb response to the need: “Why should I work with upland Lumads when I can earn P20,000 a month in a lowland parish?”

This is in stark contrast to the dedicated Isis and NPA volunteers in some of these schools. They are the reason PRRD wants to bomb these schools. Secretary Evasco should remind him that rebels are serving Lumads there because the government is not.

Besides, well-meaning folks are scared of the communist bogey that society’s political, economic and even religious elite foist on them. What happened to me early on seems to be happening again. As a young idealistic priest, I was just sincerely working with lowland and Lumad farmers and fishermen teaching them their basic rights yet soon I was in a military safe-house allegedly for being a communist.

You do not stop Isis and NPA recruitment by bombing Lumad schools. The non-military solution is to give them their CADT’s as bona fides and fully-equipped, fully manned schools as hope for a better future. You bomb these schools and they’ll lose all hope and fight back with the ferocity of one who has nothing left to lose.

Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 15, 2017.

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