(published in SunStar Davao June 1, 2016)
INCOMING Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo visited the lumad evacuees at UCCP Haran on Wednesday morning.
Taguiwalo conveyed to the lumads that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte had told them during their meeting last on Tuesday.
Taguiwalo said that it is the mandate of Duterte to his Cabinet members to be simple, a pronouncement he had already made early on.
According to Taguiwalo, Duterte told them that he will not interfere with their office affairs once they start to assume their post.
“Walang bigayan. Walang influence-peddling [sa Duterte administration]. Ang sabi niya [dapat] patas,” Taguiwalo said.
Taguiwalo said once she assumes office, she will check the issues besetting the lumad bakwits.
“I would like the information about [the DSWD officials or personnel’s] knowledge on the situation here, what they have done [about it], and what their plans are so that on that day [that I will enter the office], I will be able to make recommendations,” she said.
She also said that she wanted to know whether what assistance the DSWD has given to the Indigenous People (IPs) so far.
“(I want to hear from the DSWD) kung assistance has been given ba, or is the assistance lacking or is there no assistance?,” Taguiwalo told media.
She is studying the situation, adding that before one can become a teacher, one should be a student first.
“So right now, I am still on the learning process,” Taguiwalo bared.
When asked how the incoming administration would act on the bakwits’ demand to stop militarization in their communities, Taguiwalo said that she will convey the information she got on the issue to Duterte, yet she said that Duterte is already aware of this.
“I think the President (Duterte) already has that on his agenda. It will be part of the peace process negotiation. I will just submit to the president the additional information that is needed in terms of [solving] the issue of militarization,” Taguiwalo explained, adding that the social welfare is not part of the security cluster.
Pasaka-Southern Mindanao Secretary General Jong Monzon laid down their demands to Taguiwalo on Wednesday, June 1.
One of the demands includes the pull out of military in their communities, to disarm and dismantle the paramilitary group, prosecute those who are responsible in the alleged killings in their communities perpetrated by soldiers and paramilitary, rebuild their schools and communities, drop the trump-up charges against them and their support groups.
The lumads expressed gratitude as the incoming government had already heard them out even before assuming the office.
When asked whether she is optimistic that the incoming administration will solve the concerns of the lumads, Taguiwalo said, “I think all of us are optimistic naman. But optimism and reality are two different things. We need to walk the talk lalo na sa usapin ng social justice.”
The issues faced by the lumads are not new to Taguiwalo anymore, she said, as had met some of the lumads during their Manilakbayan in 2014, which was a march protest staged by different lumads in Mindanao to voice out their plights to the administration.