Mindanao and Fil-Am youth march for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

(photo from davaotoday.com)

In observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on March 8, youth leaders from cities in Mindanao and a group of Fil-Am missioners held a torch parade in Davao City to show the youth’s solidarity with the indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

The parade signals the start of the youth’s environment summit of around 300 youth leaders called Pangiya Ki! (Shout Out) held from August 8 to 10 at Homitori Inn.

Participants held a torch march around the city and then lighted candles and linked arms circling on a dove-art installation.

Fritz Vegas, convener of the Summit, explained the significance of the linking of arms

The Filipino tradition of the ‘kapit-bisig’ (linking of arms) signifies the youth’s collectively solidarity around the world in bringing a decisive action to defend Mindanao’s environment from plunder and militarization,” Vegas said.

The summit culminated with the formation of the youth alliance Sinubaden to push for the protection of the environment and indigenous communities from mining plunder and militarization.

The spearheading organizations are Panalipdan! Youth, Kabataang Mindanao Resource Center, Kalumaran, Salugpongan International and Save our School’s Network together with regional host organizations, Rise for Education alliance in Southern Mindanao, Youth for Peace-CARAGA, Panalipdan Youth-SOCSKARGENDS, Youth Alliance for Peace-Northern Mindanao and Panalipdan Youth-Zamboanga Peninsula. Observers for the summit were members of North America-Philippines Solidarity Affair (NAPSA) and Kapit-Bisig Kabataan Network (KBKN).

Fil-Ams integrate in Manobo communities

Members of a Filipino-American youth organization arrived in the Philippines for a three-week solidarity mission in disaster-stricken communities including the community of Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The Kapit-Bisig Kabataan Network (KBKN) sent 24 volunteers starting July 21 and had a team of volunteers integrating in Sitio Dulyan and Pagsangan in Talaingod from August 5 to 7.

One of the missioners, Jeremy Alvarado de Nieva, a school teacher in California, told online news group Davao Today about their experience in Talaingod, where they witnessed the Manobo schoolchildren being “passionate to get education despite threats in their community.”

The schoolchildren’s communities in Talaingod have been disturbed since last year by military occupations and recruitment drives to paramilitary groups such as Alamara. Some 700 Manobo individuals and children have evacuated to Davao City out of fear of the armed troops.

De Nieva noted this case of militarization as well as other insufficient government services and plunder of ancestral lands trough large-scale mining are “pressing issues (which) demands immediate action from the government.” (read more of De Nieva’s interview and activity here)

De Nieva said their group the KBKN will carry these issues to the rest of the Fil-Am and other communities in the US to support the plight of the indigenous schoolchildren.

(photos courtesy of Salugpongan International)

Watch the hip-hop, reggae concert for lumad schoolchildren this August 10

A free concert featuring Davao and Manila’s reggae and hip-hop artists would be staged this August 10 at Reggae Grill to support the continuing school services for the Manobo evacuees.

The concert is dubbed as Rise for Education and will feature Manila-based hip-hop artist BLKD and Davao hip-hop group South Breed, reggae bands Kamaggong, Lost Tribe, Nairud sa Wadab and Tortang Talong. The venue will be on Reggae Grill along JP Laurel Avenue.

Organizers of the event said no entrance fees will be charge, but instead will request the audience to come with donations such as school supplies and books for some 180 school children who are displaced due to the military occupation in their villages in Davao del Norte.

The event is held to raise awareness and support to the Manobo evacuees.

Fil-Am health workers hold clinic for Manobo evacuees

Filipino American health workers and volunteers here in an international solidarity mission held a medical clinic for the Manobo evacuees last August 2.

The volunteers are from the groups Fil-Am Healthcare Workers Association (FAWA) and the Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network based in California, who are part of the week long international solidarity mission organized by SOS Network and other cause-oriented groups helping the indigenous peoples’ rights.

One of the Fil-Am volunteers is Marietta Braganza, who work as a critical care nurse in California for 33 years. This is her third visit with the mission to the indigenous communities in Davao, but she observed this mission is different.

Her previous health missions were in the indigenous communities, but this time around the mission is in a church shelter at UCCP Haran, as some 680 Manobo people from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon sought refuge after soldiers and paramilitary occupied their villages.

Braganza noted that the stressful conditions in an unnatural environment such as the evacuation shelter contributed to the ailments among IP children and adults, as she reported many lumads suffering from upper-respiratory infection, urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

“I can’t imagine what their worries are from the day to day basis and worrying about what’s going on in their community,” she said.

Braganza and her group echoed the calls to the Philippine government to resolve the problem of the Manobo evacuees such as the pullout of troops and paramilitary in their villages so that the Manobo people can return and resume their farming and schooling activities.

The mission is organized by the  North America-Philippines Solidarity Affair (NAPSA), Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace Mindanao), Panalipdan! Youth (Youth for the Environment, Patrimony and Creation), Kabataang Mindanao Resource Center, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), Father Pops Tentorio Foundation, Salugpongan International and Save Our Schools Network (SOS).

(photo courtesy of Fr. Pops Foundation)

UN expert Chaloka Beyani urges action on Manobo evacuees

Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur (at the middle) stands beside Datu Tungig Mansimoy-at, a Manobo evacuee and tribal chieftain from Talaingod, Davao del Norte during the visit of human rights advocates in Manila last July 21. (photo from Karapatan)


Dr. Chaloka Beyani, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of the internally-displaced persons, recently made an official visit to the Philippines last July 21 to 31, including a visit to UCCP Haran in Davao City to talk with the Manobo evacuees. Prior to her visit to Davao, she met Manobo leader Datu Tungig Mansimoy-at from Salugpongan in Manila last July 21 where the tribal leader initially talked about their plight.

The rapporteur released an official statement which included the following excerpt on the Manobo communities, which ends with an urgent call to take concrete actions to protect the indigenous communities.

“It was striking to me that indigenous peoples have been particularly vulnerable to conflict-induced displacement in many regions, particularly in Mindanao. For example, I am concerned by the plight of some 700 indigenous peoples currently living in basic Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church run facilities in the city of Davao having been displaced from their ancestral homes for several months due to long-standing conflict between the government and the New People’s Army (NPA) in their region. I travelled to Davao to consult the national and local authorities and the indigenous peoples themselves on this situation. I heard from the AFP its assertion that it is seeking to protect the communities and provide services to them in conflict regions; however the displaced IPs made it clear that it is their presence and that of the paramilitary groups in their communities that continues to create anxiety amongst the indigenous communities. The community wishes to return to its lands but stressed to me that they will only feel safe to do so if the long-term militarization of their region comes to an end and they can return with guarantees of safety, dignity and protection. They described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP and harassment in the context of the on-going conflict between the AFP and the NPA. Schools have reportedly been closed and/or occupied by the AFP or Alamara, hampering the access to education of indigenous children. While tribal leaders informed me that they are not being detained against their will at the UCCP centre in Davao, as is evident by reports of their periodic return to their communities, their current situation is neither acceptable nor sustainable. It is essential to find a rapid and peaceful solution to their situation in full consultation with their legitimate leaders, with their voluntary and secure return to their ancestral lands being a high priority. I urge the Government, in consultation with indigenous peoples themselves, to give greater attention to addressing the causes of displacement whether it be due to the militarization of their areas or due to development projects.

This situation clearly demonstrates the massive and potentially irreversible impact of the on-going conflicts on displacement of such vulnerable communities who are often caught up in the conflict and suspected of involvement with armed groups. Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever. Indigenous peoples are poorly equipped to survive away from their ancestral lands and are therefore deeply affected by displacement. The needs of these vulnerable people must be assessed, with their full participation, so as to provide essential assistance for them, including durable solutions which are culturally sensitive and appropriate, when displacement has taken place. The displacement of such communities whose very lives and cultures are intimately entwined with their ancestral lands and environments must only be a matter of last resort. It is clear to me that existing legislation and institutions, including the exemplary Indigenous Peoples Rights Act cannot provide adequate protection from displacement unless fully implemented in practice. Specific provisions on the rights of indigenous peoples should be included in the IDP Law currently under consideration.”

The full text of Beyani’s statement can be found in the United Nation Human Rights website here.


Police, military and Congresswoman Catamco sued over church attack

Manobo leaders and the UCCP heads filed charges against police, military officials and Congresswoman Nancy Catamco over the attack at UCCP Haran last July 23 that left 15 injured and
traumatized children.

The complaint filed by Bishop Hamuel Tequis of UCCP Southeastern Mindanao and leaders of Salugpongan, charged North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco, Davao City Police Deputy Director Colonel Marvin Pepino, PNP Regional Intelligence Office Head Col. Filmore Escobal, and Colonel Jake Obligado of Eastern Mindanao Command as responsible for the incident.

They are charged with violations to the Revised Penal Code on seven provision including Usurpation of Authority or Official Function, Physical Injuries Inflicted in a Tumultuous Affray, Serious Physical Injuries, Qualified Trespass to Dwelling, Grave Threats, Grave Coercion, and Malicious Mischief.

Also charged are leaders of the paramilitary group Alamara which the Salugpongan leaders claimed instigated the attack. This is the same paramilitary that has been harassing them in Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

(Photos courtesy of Davao Today. Read coverage of the case filing here)
Respondents to Haran attack

Cases on Haran incident

Woman chieftain chastises Catamco

Watch this video as Matigsalug leader Bae Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, one of the few woman chieftain in Mindanao, chastises North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco in the aftermath of the police clash with her fellow lumads at the UCCP Haran.


Bae Bibiayon, a leader of the Natulinan organization in Bukidnon, rebukes the Congresswoman for betraying their trust as a fellow lumad and insisted them to return back to their villages through police force.

The Congresswoman is also declared persona-non-grata the lumads for disrespecting their leaders and insulting the lumad children in a dialogue. See story here.

Below is the statement of the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon criticizing Catamco over the incidence.

The declaration of ‘pangayaw’ by a datu supported by Nancy Catamco is arrogant and fascist, and this is the message shown by the group of police, Alamara and civilian-wearing soldiers ordered by Catamco to disturb our shelter at UCCP Haran.

Their brutality and murderous intent were shown in their actions in our communities and once again here in Davao City.

We condemn the infiltration made by the group led by Catamco that disturbed our peaceful evacuation. They destroyed the gates of UCCP Haran, beat our families, dragged some of the UCCP pastors, and accused us as criminals.

What Catamco did is plain disturbance and disrespect to us lumads. He used the police and Alamara to forced us to go home but she and the notorious police and Alamara have failed in doing this.

The anger that Bae Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay expressed in front of Catamco yesterday is not even enough to show our anger towards this Congresswoman who claims to be an educated lumad but we witnessed her arrogance, disrespect and fakery.

Catamco should be investigated for her actions and her connections with the military. She should be held accountable for the troubles she made that resulted to the police brutality and dispersal at UCCP Haran.

Catamco’s threat that she will return to UCCP Haran poses a threat to the security of our families and to the Manbo community.

Watch police clash with Lumads in evacuation center

(contributed photo)

Police and other state forces barged their way into the UCCP Haran last July 23 Thursday in an alleged attempt to “rescue” the 700 Manobo evacuees.

Some 15 lumads were injured from their attempt to block the shield and stick-wielding police. The incident disrupted classes of some 180 Manobo children inside the compound who were rushed into a safer place in the compound.

Watch the footage of the incident from Kilab Multimedia.

The clash fizzled after Davao City Vice Mayor Paulo Duterte intervened and allowed the Manobo evacuees to decide who wanted to leave the shelter and take the free transportation provided by authorities. Not one Manobo evacuee volunteered.

The Save Our Schools Network joins the Manobo evacuees in condemning the police attack. They blame North Cotabato 2nd District Congresswoman Nancy Catamco for instigating the attack after announcing that she will get them out of the compound.

The group condemns Catamco for ignoring the real issue of the Lumads which is the presence of military and paramilitary troops in their villages.



Manobos declare Congresswoman Catamco persona non-grata

For insulting and disrespecting the evacuees, Manobo leaders declared North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco “persona non grata” to their evacuation shelter at the UCCP Haran.

This declaration was made after the Manobo leaders felt they were slighted by Catamco in a dialogue with her and other government officials with support groups last July 15 to address their issues.

Leaders from the groups Salugpongan of Talaingod, Karadyawan of Kapalong and Kasilo of Bukidnon
said in a press conference (story here) that they felt disrespected when Catamco refused to listen to their demands and kept interrupting them when they were raising their points.

They recounted that Catamco kept ignoring them in the dialogue held at the UCCP Haran by passing the microphone to the evacuees and asked if they wanted to go home and told them they are assured of free transportation.

The dialogue later moved to another venue, but eventually the Manobo leaders and support groups walked out.

In this voiceclip, Catamco can be heard raising her voice in response to a person who said they would rather die in the evacuation center than return to their militarized communities.

She said “Okay, you want to die here? Okay, you want to die here? He said that. You want to die? Alright, those who want to die here, raise your hands. Raise your hands! You want this? Really?” Later she added “I cannot understand seeing the children here stinking (baho) like this …”

The Manobo leaders said Catamco even brought military officials to the dialogue which made their families worried. They later called Catamco “arrogant” and “not real” in her feelings for the lumads.

They said they will no longer open their doors to a dialogue with Catamco after her actions and would wait for other venues to resolve their issues.