Sunday July 22, 2018

Velez: Fighting for Lumads and rights beyond CHR, NCIP

THE crisis facing both the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is not just what happened to their brutalized budget.

These institutions, that on paper are meant to protect human rights and the Lumads respectively, have also a crisis of performance. Go ask the Mindanao Lumads.

For the past years going way back to the Arroyo and Aquino years, complaints were filed by Lumad leaders and teachers to the CHR of the abuses by the military and paramilitary, including the attacks on schools. Those complaints only gathered dust in the CHR desks and weren't acted on or investigated.

Just recently, the Lumad leaders who are at the Kampuhan at UP Diliman, faced CHR Chino Gascon and did not mince words on their complaints.

"Daku kaayo among pagkadismaya sa CHR kay sa pila ka tuig og daghan na kaayo mi og gi-file pero wala gihapon (We are very frustrated with the CHR for they haven't act on the many complaints we filed)," said Bai Eufemia Cullamat, a Manobo from Suirgao del Sur who demanded justice for the 2015 murders of their two leaders and Alcadev school director Emerito Samarca.

"The children said the CHR seem to doubt their testimonies. One of the investigators even asked: 'Why do you always blame the soldiers? What about the NPAs?" Jong Monzon, spokesperson of Pasaka Federation pointed out to Gascon about the CHR probe on cases of the Salugpongan schools.

Gascon was actually very apologetic that he promised to the Lumads that the CHR this time will double their efforts to work on the past complaints and the recent cases this year.

That is just the CHR. The issue on the NCIP is far worse. The book Understanding the Lumad: A Closer Look at a Misunderstood Culture by Manggob Masinaring tackled how majority of the Lumad communities are disappointed on the NCIP for manipulating the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) to allow big companies to encroach their ancestral lands. The book cited cases of the entry of the hydro plant in the Bagobo land in Tudaya, Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur and on how the NCIP formed its own tribal leaders in order to deal with logging companies.

These and a hundred more complaints by Lumads on the NCIP actually have basis to make even the progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc to slash their budget. For Makabayan and the Lumads, it is time to stop an office that promotes "tribal dealers" rather than tribal leaders.

I consider the efforts of Gascon and well-meaning staff in both the CHR and NCIP who want to turn these negative impressions of their offices around. But this now comes late, as the politics of Duterte overruns the House and due process.

There are those who want to start a fund drive to save CHR and NCIP. But I think support should go not to the offices, but rather directly to the Lumads and rights victims. The Lumads themselves have shown in years how they fought for their rights without both institutions siding with them.

Saving institutions, for all its good intent, is not the right call. Save the Lumads and the Moro people. Stop the Wars are the more urgent calls.