Due to the pressing issue regarding the military occupation in Lumad communities, the Ateneo Debate Varsity (ADV) made the theme for the annual ADDU Debates about the Lumads and their current situation.
“The Lumad killings is relevant to the Ateneo community especially because of proximity, we’re very near to them, and a lot of Atenistas are more inclined to discussing the issue since we are all Mindanaons,” ADV Pres. Gilson Po stated.
The said event was held yesterday, Dec. 7, at the university’s Thibault grounds.
The motion debated upon was “This House Believes That military and paramilitary forces should pull out of Lumad communities.”
The Affirmative Side was composed of Sean Ezekiel Año, the ADV Vice-President for Finance, Vanessa Kate Madrazo, the organization’s Vice-President for Communications, and Hazel Bergantinos, the group’s Training Director.
The Negative Side was composed of Tyrone Kim Geronga, a senior member of the varsity, Hannah Keziah Dela Cerna, a junior member, and Po himself.
The event was well-received by several audience members. Joselito Lagon, Jr., a progressive advocate for the Lumads, shared that the event can be a motivator for Ateneo students to be more involved with the current issues.
“I would like to commend Ateneo Debate Varsity for hosting the event and for tackling such a pressing issue like this one [Lumads]. Not all Ateneans dwell on such topics and issues because [they don’t] concern [and] directly affect them. Some are sympathetic, but not empathetic.
“[So] this is a starter for most Ateneans here who are also Mindanaons who also have the heart for others and [want to] be [persons] for others,” he said.
A need to be informed
“The Lumad killings is a present issue right now, and there is no other time for us to discuss this matter, especially now that we need immediate action, not only from the government, but also from the people,” Po said.
When asked how he thought the debate went, Lagon said that while it was good, it could have been more informative.
“How the debate went through, it started with the usual. They started with facts. It’s good that they did their research, but they [lacked] some facts and figures like the numbers of deaths, the history behind the killings, the history [as to] why there are Lumads being recruited by the rebels, and the reason why Lumads are joining the armed revolutionary group [of] NPA.
“They really had to justify why the military and the paramilitary should be pulled out based on historicity; when were these paramilitary forces formed and how did they become so under the Armed Forces of the Philippines?” he said.
Lagon further stated that more facts are needed so that students could learn more about the issue.
“[There should also be] facts about how many Lumads were already assassinated, how many Lumads are being displaced, or how many Lumads joined the rebel groups.
“We [needed] those facts, and it [could’ve also] helped students to further analyze and research on their side on why such a thing (Lumad killings) is happening right now and is a never-ending issue so long as there is an injustice being perpetrated by the government itself,” he said.
Urgent call to action
With regard to the issue, Po further stated that initiative is needed from the people and that this was a reason why the theme for this year’s Debates was about the Lumads.
“We need initiative from the people because we’re talking about the lives of Lumads, we’re talking about displaced individuals who need resources. So we need to tap into individuals who can help them. So if we delay the discussion, we cannot reach all of them,” he said.
Lagon also said that apart from being informed, people must take active participation.
“What we should do is always advocate and not stop here in the debate, but continue the [curiosity] and be educated on these kinds of issues and give our active participation on [other platforms such as] social media, through integrating with them [the Lumads] and actively advocating their sentiments and their struggles for right to self-determination and social services,” he said.