May 3, 2023 (12:52 AM)

4 min read


Art by Sean Anthony Penn Lacorte

The heightening attacks and human rights violations in the Lumad community led SABOKAHAN (Unity of Lumad Women) Youth Officer Tin Olado and Youth Chairperson Lala Empong to be uncertain of the future of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao under the Marcos-Duterte administration. 

Panaghiusa, a broad Philippine network of IP groups, revealed that the cases of extrajudicial killings of leaders and members of indigenous communities reached up to 126 from 2016 to 2021.

“All of those indigenous leaders and civilians or their groups experienced red-tagging at least at one point,” Panaghiusa National Coordinator Prince Turtugo stated. 

The Global Witness’s Decade of Defiance report also disclosed that over 40 percent (114) of murdered land and environmental defenders were IPs. The organization stated that these individuals were “campaigning to protect their land and the environment, with nearly 80 percent of attacks against indigenous defenders taking place on the island of Mindanao.” 

SOBOKAHAN officers also shared that their collective living and tribe are being eradicated and divided by the military. 

“Dahil ginagamit ng militar yung kapwa namin para armasan at ipagsasabong kami. Nagbunga rin ito ng marami sa mga kabataang lumad na umalis sa komunidad at magpunta sa syudad para maging katulong.”

Other Lumad youths also cannot continue their education, causing them to get wedded at a young age. 

According to Olado and Empong, the disrespect to the Lumad’s culture worsened as Vice President Sara Duterte wore the IPs’ traditional attire during the State of the Nation Addresses of President Bongbong Marcos in July 2022. 

“Noong mayor pa siya sa Davao, siya mismo ang nagpasara sa 54 na lumad school sa Talaingod. Niredtag niya ang aming mga titser at ang mga tumutulong sa amin,” Olado and Empong emphasized.

Sara Duterte released a statement in 2022 stating that the schools were managed by teacher volunteers associated with the terrorist group New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Refuting the claims of the vice president, the House of Representatives Makabayan bloc said that the schools were shut down “through a combination of sheer intimidation, state terror and denial of due process.”

“Today, not a single Lumad school out of the more than 200 is operating in the aftermath of the violent attacks and denial of procedural recourse – denying over a thousand Lumad kids their right to education.”

With this, Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination spokesperson Eufemia Cullamata believed that the incumbent vice president wearing the Bagobo tribal dress to the SONA was meaningless and only for show.

In 2021, the Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Phil Robertson said , “The Philippine officials’ red-tagging of Indigenous leaders and activists has often proven deadly and put their communities at risk.”

He further stated that these communities must not fear violence or death as it is their right to express their views and protect their land and cultural heritage. 

HRW called the Marcos Jr. administration to “urgently issue a clear directive to all government officials to stop red-tagging and take appropriate action against those responsible.”

The SABOKAHAN youth leaders also emphasized the power of social media in allowing the youth to internalize the crucial situation of the IP and fight the oppression of the state.

“Sa kapwa kabataan, huwag limitahan ang sarili sa kung saan tayo komportable at kung ano yung mga balita na napapakinggan natin. Maging mapanuri, at gamitin natin yung oportunidad na makakapagsalita tayo para sa mga pinagkaitan ng karapatang magsalita.”

SABOKHAN continues to urge the dismissal of the fabricated cases filed against their teachers and classmates, expulsion of the military from communities, and end of mining.

This article was published in the April 2023 Issue of Atenews. Read it here:

End the silence of the gagged!

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