Progressive incoming social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo visits Lumads in Haran

(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.

Continue reading Progressive incoming social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo visits Lumads in Haran

Lumad school teachers ready for opening of classes

Teachers of heavily militarized IP community schools in Southern Mindanao are ready for the start of school year 2016 despite which may face the last wave of military operation of the Aquino administration’s Oplan Bayanihan.

According to the spokesperson of Save Our Schools Network, Rius Valle, about 169 teachers were sent off to 67 IP schools from Salugpongan Community Learning Center and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) institutions in Southern Mindanao region this week and also in some parts of neighboring regions this week. Continue reading Lumad school teachers ready for opening of classes

Lumads’ plight moves Vagina Monologue playwright Eve Ensler to tears

Eve Ensler, founder of One Billion Rising global campaign turns emotional after hearing the stories of the Lumad evacuees inside the evacuation center at a church compound in Davao City on Friday, February 12. (Ace R. Morandante/ Continue reading Lumads’ plight moves Vagina Monologue playwright Eve Ensler to tears

Alamara attacks drive 300 Manobos out of Talaingod

“Tell Ma’am Lolit that in five days, teachers of Salugpongan should leave this school, because when I return and you are still here, I will do what I have warned you before.”

These were the words of paramilitary Alamara member ‘Ang-angoy’ Butanlog, which he uttered in front of teachers and 15 students at the Salugpongan Learning Center in Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod last December 11. Continue reading Alamara attacks drive 300 Manobos out of Talaingod

Tribal schools suspend classes after lumad boy’s murder

At least four tribal schools in Talaingod, Davao del Norte have suspended classes since last week for fear of more attacks following the January 17 killing of a teenaged lumad student by a member of the military-backed Alamara militia.

The Save Our Schools Network reported Tuesday that the teachers and students of Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center schools in Sitios Laslasakan, Nalubas and Panga-an in Barangay Palma Gil, and Sitio Pongpong in Barangay Dagohoy had decided to stay away since the killing of Alibando Tingkas. Continue reading Tribal schools suspend classes after lumad boy’s murder

Redemptorist priests dismayed by death of student in their lumad school

( Candles lit during an event for lumad schools held last November in Manila. photo by Mark Saludes)

Alibando Tingkas was shot on Jan. 17, becoming the latest victim in a spate of killings of indigenous people in the southern region of Mindanao in recent months.

Figures detailing the exact number of killings of indigenous peoples over the last few months are sketchy but rights groups claim more than 140 people have been killed since the current government came to power.

Continue reading Redemptorist priests dismayed by death of student in their lumad school

Militia leader linked to school leader slay surrenders but gets freed later

(Magahat leader Calpet Egua appears in court where he gets free on bail, photo from Agusan del Sur Philippine National Police)

The highest ranking leader of a “lumad” paramilitary group being held responsible for the killing of a school director and two other lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur province, surrendered to police, but for another criminal case.

Datu Calpet Egua, head of the Magahat-Bagani force in the Agusan and Surigao areas, spent barely a day in police custody after he posted bail for a robbery case. Continue reading Militia leader linked to school leader slay surrenders but gets freed later

Bakwits: New Year’s Eve was a night of gloom at Haran

photo from Sunstar Davao October 2015

WHAT was supposed to be a lively New Year’s celebration was a night of gloom for some remaining lumad bakwits who had stayed at the UCCP Haran shelter, as they recounted their experience and what had caused them to leave their communities.

New Year’s celebration for the remaining 500 lumad bakwits in UCCP Haran could have been about offering food with dance rituals to express their thanksgiving to Manama Magbabayaw as the year starts and asking for guidance from Kalayag Ibabaso to give them abundance of harvest for the New Year.

Continue reading Bakwits: New Year’s Eve was a night of gloom at Haran

Belgian rights group award Lumads for defending schools

The lumads of Mindanao is this year’s recipient of the Stop the Killings – Belgium Human Rights Award which was given on International Human Rights Day on December 10. The group has been giving such recognition in the past ten years to groups for exemplary work on human rights.

The award was given to recognize the invaluable dedication and steadfast struggle of the lumads in defending their rights to their ancestral land and for protecting their lumad schools.

Receiving the award in Brussels was Percenita Sanchez, executive director of Mindanao Mindanao Interfaith Services Inc. (MISFI), which established lumad schools all over Davao Region.

Below is the acceptance speech of Sanchez.


Human Rights Award
Dec. 10, 2015
Brussels, Belgium

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honor and a privilege to accept this award in behalf of my fellow Lumads of Mindanao.
Lumad is a collective term for people born in the island with 18 ethnolinguistic groups of Indigenous Peoples comprising 1.7 million population living in the mountainous area that is almost as big as Belgium.
We have long been neglected by the Philippine Government. Many are undocumented and not counted as among the 100 million population of Filipinos as of 2010.
The Lumads are supposed to own the “Ancestral Lands” according to the law (Indigenous People’s Rights Act) but the same law permits big corporations to explore and invest in our ancestral lands. First came the mono-crop plantations of coconut, pineapple, banana, rubber and oil palm and then the large scale mining for gold, copper, chromite, coal and many more.
Majority are illiterate (9 out of 10 lumad children do not have access to education). Those who have attained higher education have become Lumad “dealers” instead of becoming “leaders”. A few became government officials but lost compassion for their tribe.
This situation prompted missionaries to educate the Lumads, others evangelized and baptized them and others recognized their rights to determine their own faith. Many Lumads remained animist (they worship the spirits in the environment such as big mountains and rivers) that are now lost. Mountains are flattened to the ground and rivers are polluted with cyanide and mercury.
Lumads also have a historic culture of resistance, many resisted the intrusion of logging companies as in the case of Alsons (Alcantara and Sons Logging Company) in Talaingod Davao del Norte in 1994; APEX mining in Compostela Valley; Youbang and Bearbull Mines in Davao Oriental. And now the mining companies in Caraga region in Mindanao.
Mindanao’s ancestral domains are the Philippines’ last frontiers. But these lands are now being plundered and our communities militarized. In pursuit of this imperialist plunder, the Aquino government is attacking our schools, communities, and people through the State’s internal security doctrine Oplan Bayanihan. In truth, Oplan Bayanihan is the government’s war for plunder and war against the people.
Indigenous community schools in Mindanao have been targeted for closure, encampment, vilification, and harassment. These schools have been initiated by Lumad community organizations, with assistance from non-government organizations and support groups, in response to the need to address high illiteracy rates in rural areas.
Militarization of communities has led to forcible evacuations of Lumads. Their livelihood has been disrupted. Community infrastructure like schools, clinics, collective farms have been destroyed.
Using the classic divide-and-rule approach, the Philippine military has organized, armed, and trained indigenous paramilitaries to fight against their kin.
School director Emerito Samarca and indigenous leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo were brutally killed inside ALCADEV Campus in Surigao del Sur on September 1 this year. On October 23, the students and teachers of MISFI Academy in Kitaotao Bukidnon were driven away from the school by the military.
This and other gruesome killings, massacres, and enforced disappearances demonstrate the state of impunity in Mindanao today.
Advocates against big mining, plantations, and other extractive projects, as well as teachers and students, have been lodged with fabricated criminal suits. They are facing threats to their lives.
Several of those who find their names in the military’s “order of battle hit list” have become victims of summary executions.
The continuing military operations have resulted to massive evacuation. There are more than 3,000 individuals who are now in the Sports complex of Tandag Surigao del Sur, more than 5 hundred in Bukidnon and more than a thousand in Haran Davao city since March of this year. Just the other day another 200 individuals evacuated to Davao City from Compostela Valley Province.
Despite the series of lobbying and manifestations including the recent “Manilakbayan” where Lumads from Mindanao traveled and marched to Manila, President Benigno S. Aquino III continuously ignored the pleas of Lumads. Thus, many organizations seek the support of international policy makers and opinion makers to help us in this plight.
This award gives hope to the Lumads to continue the struggle for their rights and self-determination. We look forward to your continuing support and solidarity.
Thank you.

Lumad children strengthen defense of their schools amid intensified attacks

TANDAG CITY – As their schools may be occupied or closed temporarily by soldiers, and lumad leaders have been extinguished in their communities, the lumad children in the First Mindanao-wide Lumad Children Congress express their strong desire to finish their schooling.

The congress held in Tandag City from October 6 to 8 was organized by Kalumaran Mindanao and Save Our Schools Network to gather and raise the morale of students and support groups to defend the children from the attacks of state security forces including the military and paramilitary groups.

Such desire was expressed by 13 year-old Manobo student Apad from the ALCADEV in Surigao del Sur:

“Bisan pila ilang patyon nga Dionel, Bello ug Sir Emok daghan pa ming mga bata ang motumaw aron mopadayon sa edukasyon nga ilang nasugdan” (No matter how many more Dionel, Bello and Sir Emok would be killed, we are among the many children who will continue with our education that they have started for us), Apad said.

Last September 1, lumad leader Dionel Campos, Datu Bello Sinzo and ALCADEV Executive Director Emerito ‘Emok’ Samarca were murdered by paramilitary groups in front of the children and parents, based on accusations that they are NPA supporters.

Al, a 17 year-old Manobo student of MISFI (Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.) Academy from Kapalong, Davao del Norte said the attacks on schools is due to the interests of government and corporations to engage in mining operations in their ancestral domain.

“Gusto nila nga papahawaon ang atong magtutudlo sa atong komunidad, para ipadayon nila ang pag mining o pag ilad-ilad sa atong tanan” (They want to drive our teachers out of our community, to pave the entry and continue mining and to deceive us),” said Alvin.

The mining interests also tear apart Lumad communities as soldiers recruit paramilitaries and organize their own lumad bandit groups to wreak havoc in the communities.

“Mao nga kita, importante kaayo nga kita maka eskwela ug kita dapat mga kabataan, hatagan nila og katungod nga maningil sa ilaha (That is why, it is important for us to go to school for we children are entitled to our rights and seek accountability from the government),” Al said.

Even with the attacks, lumad schools have increased all over Mindanao to serve more lumad children from last year’s 146 to 162 schools in Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Surigao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, and Sarangani Province. The SOS Network said these schools are servicing 6,000 students from pre-school to grade school and has garnered several recognitions for genuinely servicing communities not reached by the government’s public education services.
A 12 year-old Blaan student of CLANS (Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services) school, Wil, said that he is thankful that a school was established for their tribe as this would give him a chance to teach the future generations of his people.

Another student, 16-year-old Lando from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, said he wants to be a lawyer to defend their tribe from people who wanted to exploit their ancestral lands like large scale mining companies and the military.

“Bisan pirmi gina-ipit among mga eskwelahan, nagkadaghan gihapon among eskwelahan, nagpakita lang ni nga samot nga nilig-on ang among baruganan ug magpadayon mi para makab-ot namo among mga damgo (Even though our schools are always under attack, the number of our schools continue to increase, this signifies that we are resolutely stronger on our stand and we will continue to reach for our dreams),” said Lando.

SOS Mindanao convener Prof. Mae Ancheta-Templa said these reactions show that the attacks on schools and communities by the military and paramilitary groups have only taught the children how to stand up and be critical of the government’s actions on indigenous peoples.

“These students are now more resolute to defend their schools and claim their right to education,” Templa said.