This year’s State of the Youth Address (SOYA) held in Assumption College of Davao voiced the struggles experienced by the Lumad communities in Mindanao.
PASAKA Secretary-General Jong Monzon described the various struggles they face in their ancestral land, from the hindrances in building Lumad schools to the presence of paramilitary groups in their community.
Fight for free education
Lumad groups continually built schools to provide free education for their youth, but 87 of these schools were closed because they became camping grounds for soldiers.
Some volunteer teachers were even accused as members of the NPA. Until now, these teachers are still in prison.
“Naa mi mga volunteer teacher, mga graduate sa UP Diliman, University of Santo Tomas, mga cum laude. Karon, ang gibuhat sa ilaha gipasumanginlan sila na mga NPA… hangtod karon, nakakulong pa,” Monzon said.
Monzon stressed that these schools had a permit from the Department of Education, so they were allowed to teach legally.
“Naa mi permit. Kung makakita mo sa amoa, sa engagement namo sa gobyerno aron makatukod ug eskwelahan, tanan permit, gikan sa kahoy, hantod na mangabuo ang eskwelahan, gikuhaan namo nag permit sa Department of Education,” he said.
Monzon recalled how a Grade 6 pupil was shot by the paramilitary groups in their community but was not given justice.
“Ingana pud ang the Department of Justice… tungod sa gipatay nga igsoon namong Lumad na Grade 6 student gipatay sa paramilitary group. Pero hantod karon, wa gihapon hustisya.”
For Monzon, the “Build, Build, Build” project of the Duterte administration would only work if the investors took hold of their land. Thus, the soldiers in the camp would do everything at their disposal to silence the Lumads so that they will not fight for their struggles.
Monzon said that soldiers recruited some of their fellow Lumad brothers to form paramilitary groups and kill those who were against the investors entering their land.
“’Di dyud malikayan na naa’y mga leader sa katawhang Lumad, na ginatawag na hatagan og kwarta, unya hatagan og pusil, unya patyun ang iyang isip ka Lumad para makasulod ang investor. Hatagan sa sundalo ug kana nga budget. Mao nay ginatawag na paramilitary group, na Lumad pud na kaparehas sa amoa,” Monzon said.
The Lumads raised their concern to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to pull out the soldiers from their land, but were told that they needed solid evidence to file a case.
“Pag-adto namo, giingnan mi: asa man imong mga picture? Dapat gipicturan nimo sa pagkulata… Imagina kulatahun ka unya magpicture-picture sa kilid?” he said.
Monzon said that the Commission on Human Rights could not fight against the government because the best that they could do for the Lumads is to only endorse the case.
Monzon said that the only way to pull out soldiers in their community is to end martial law in Mindanao. He also urged the government to disarm the paramilitary groups formed in their community.
He called for justice to the youth who are still victims of the education system in the Philippines and reminded the students to be aware of the struggles of their fellow Filipinos.
“Huwag ninyong hayaan ang inyong edukasyon na makasisira sa inyong pag-aaral. Ug ayaw mo [pakulong] sa four corners sa inyong classroom kay ang tinood na eskwelahan, wala sa four corners sa inyong classroom. Naa na sa atong society,” Monzon said.
For Monzon, they will continue to fight for their rights and their land. He encouraged the students to support their cause.
“Ing-ani lang pud ang among ikasaad namo sa inyo: ibuwis namo ang among kinabuhi para depensahan ang among ancestrality. Sama [amoang saad], na suportahan mi ninyo, ug andam mo, na [muduyog] sa amoa sa among panawagan,” he said.