The lumad situation is intimate and complex. The evilest thing a civilian could do as a response is to reduce their struggle to an NPA issue.
Across Mindanao, lumad communities are fleeing their lands as continued militarization and senseless bloodshed violate the lumad’s sense of safety in their own homes. In Davao City alone, at least 700 displaced lumad, including women and children, have been taking shelter at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran. It has apparently become a dangerous circumstance to become, or to even sympathize with, an indigenous person.
This has been a long evident problem, with recent incidents (including the brutal death of Emerico Samarca, executive director of an alternative Lumad learning center in Surigao del Sur) escalating in severity. Calls from concerned groups for the withdrawal of military and paramilitary groups from Lumad lands have fallen on deaf ears.
Claims of violence have been justified by the military as part of their counter-insurgency measures.
Firstly, the most unfortunate victims of Lumad-targeted oppression are known for being vocal against human rights abuses or environmental exploitation. Their right to voice out their beliefs or to hold an ideology should never be a basis for targetted attacks.
Secondly, even if these people are truly rebels, this does not justify the stark violence against them. Families should not even see their loved ones treated like pigs in broad daylight.
Thirdly, many other innocent lumads are forced to suffer because of these incidents. Whole communities are forced on exodus because of the violence.
This is the reality the lumad face: blame is put on them, and like other scapegoats, are forced to suffer for the fault of other people.
As civilians, the convenient frame for us to imagine, being free from the struggles of the lumad, is to believe the military that the killings were targetted toward the NPA. This mentality is toxic and supports the senseless violence and displacement of the communites. Why must so many more lumad families suffer?
As a country with heavy and well-defined attachments to the Catholic faith, it is appalling that the government is lenient on this issue. It would appear that violence has become a tool for the state to achieve its goals.
In response to claims of violence to extract information against terrorism, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had to condemn torture. We hear this sentiment from Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president.
“Nothing justifies torture, more so when it is part of a scheme of lawlessness and sheer brigandage.”
What more for murder?
Yet this “scheme of lawlessness and sheer brigandage” is downplayed and ignored. People in positions of power continue to sweep this under the rug.
As sensible human beings, we condemn the senseless violence against the lumad. We join our lumad brothers and sisters in their struggles.
We call on the AdDU community to participate in the cry for justice, and to participate in discussion toward peace. Let us aim to bring the lumad back home.