Velez: Explaining the Lumad killings

A HUGE 30-foot billboard stands near the Davao City Council building since last week with the words “Stop Lumad Killings” and a photo of the slain paramilitary Ata-Dibabawonlumad leader Ruben Lubawan from Paquibato District.

Somehow, there is disconnect between the message and the image.

When I read “Stop Lumad Killings”, the image that comes up are the martyrs Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo who were shot in front of the Alcadev students in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Another image is that of Hermie Alegre, secretary of the parent-teachers association of a Lumad school in Kahusayan, Barangay Guianga, who was shot dead last Friday by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

The “Stop Lumad Killings” campaign last year championed Lumad leaders in Mindanao who protected their land and peoples from the plunder of mining and attacks of the military/paramilitary.

The paramilitary includes the Alamara, a group that has leaders who are Datus but have been recruited by the military. The Alamara leaders include Ruben Labawan.

The book Modern Warlordism in Mindanao gives a good account on how the paramilitary among the Lumads came into being.

In the book, the indigenous people’s alliance Pasaka said the military exploited the indigenous peoples “vigilance” by recruiting them into the paramilitary and making them believe they can be “kings in their own lands”. Thus Alamara leaders have been known to “defend” their tribe’s ancestral lands by applying for the Certificate for Ancestral Domain Title and by arming Lumads to fight the NPA and other “encroachers”.

But the enemies they are fighting turn out to be themselves. As Paquibato farmers and Lumads have through the years trooped to the City Council to narrate their tales of kin being shot by the paramilitary or being harassed no end by the paramilitary even at the middle of the night.

That is the tragedy that the Lumads are being made pawns in a game of those who covet their lands and the mineral resources beneath them.

For those who want to see this violence in the Lumad communities end, one must not blame the other. The roots of the problem, such as landlessness and exploitation needs to be addressed.

That is why President Duterte is reopening the door for peace talks to root out the injustices. Lumad leaders and supporters also want to see more concrete actions such as the disbandment of the paramilitary and reallocating the military budget into social services for the Lumads.

These calls are also being carried out on two simultaneous events this week: The Manilakbayan to greet Duterte’s first Sona and the International Conference for People's Rights in the Philippines to be held this weekend at the Brokenshire Resource Center.

The Lumadissues needs our support in the right direction.
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