Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, gestures as he is applauded by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, left, and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez during his third State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon city, metropolitan Manila, Philippines Monday July 23, 2018.
AP/Aaron Favila
Duterte silent on peace talks, Lumads in 3rd SONA
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 24, 2018 - 11:11am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:24 p.m.) — In his third State State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to continue the fight against drugs but made no mention of peace negotiations with communist rebels nor the plight of Lumad communities in his home region of Mindanao.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza earlier said that the government would shift to local negotiations with rebel leaders following Duterte's cancellation of peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Jose Maria "Joma" Sison, CPP founder and NDF political consultant, earlier said that communist rebels would rather join movements to oust Duterte than push through with the peace negotiations.

Sison, in a statement after Duterte's SONA, noted that Duterte made no mention of Proclamation 360, which effectively terminated the Philippine government's negotiations with the NDF last Nov. 23, 2017.

"He does not want to address the roots of the armed conflict through comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms in order to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace," Sison said.

"It is deliberately escalating the armed conflict in order to scapegoat the revolutionaries for his vile scheme of establishing a fascist dictatorship," the NDF consultant added.

In his first SONA in 2016, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF to allow the resumption of peace talks.

In his SONA last year, the president was more hostile toward Sison, calling him a fool, while he told leftists that he will not talk to them.

RELATED: Activists chant Duterte off rally stage

Duterte, in remarks to the Lumads in his inaugural SONA, said that the government has issued them Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title, which give them ownership and rights over "vast tracts of land especially in the island of Mindanao."

"Government has given you the tool, the legal tool to improve yourself financially, economically and socially. Make use of your ancestral domain. Do not let it remain idle," Duterte said in 2016. 

Last February, in remarks at the anniversary of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, that he would choose the investors for ancestral lands to make sure the deals would be free of corruption.

Among the areas he mentioned that he wants opened to investment are Mount Talomo — part of the Apo-Talomo mountain range in the Davao region — the Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur, and Mount Kitanglad in Bukidnon. 
 
"If you say you don't want to mine, then don't. No mines. If you say it will pollute your area, we'll block it," he also said. He said, though, that IPs who agree to have mines put up in their ancestral domains are free to do so.
 
"Now, you have been given ancestral domain. The problem is, you aren't using it," the president said then. 

No mention of Lumads

This year, Duterte made no mention of Lumads despite the reported evacuation of communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur due to military presence in the area.

According to the military unit that operates in the area, Lianga is near the Andap Valley Complex, which it said is "influenced" by the New People's Army.

Earlier this month, Karapatan-Caraga reported that 328 families or around 1,607 people have evacuated in response to military presence in their areas since June. This would be the fourth time for Lumad communities to evacuate since martial law was declared over Mindanao in May 2017.

Residents of the Lumad communities said they did not feel safe with the soldiers around because of reported harassment and disruption of their daily lives. The Lumads who fled their communities and sought shelter at a gymnasium in a Lianga barangay soon found themselves surrounded by soldiers, who were there "as standard procedure".

'False promise for Mindanao'

Slamming Duterte's martial law declaration over Mindanao, Sison accused the president of using the siege of Marawi "to attack other Bangsamoro, Lumad and Christian communities and grab the land for foreign and oligarchic interests in Mining, plantations and logging."

For Sison, Duterte only shed "crocodile tears" over the destruction of Marawi City.

"Now, he makes a new false promise to fulfill the promise of Mindanao with public funds which have not at all flowed for the urgent and adequate reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City," Sison said, referring to Duterte's promise to sign the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law, which would implement the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The CPP-NPA has not been supportive of the BBL and has said in the past that the Moros might themselves at a disadvantage over the deal.

Duterte promised that he will sign and ratify the BOL within 48 hours of when he receives the approved version from Congress.

"Despite all that has been said, or against the Bangsamoro Organic Law by all sectoral groups, I make this solemn commitment that this administration will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within the constitutional framework of our country," Duterte said.

'State of Bakwit Address'

For Samira Gutoc, a peace advocate and former member of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Duterte failed to address the fate of the displaced residents of Marawi City, which was used to justify the declaration of martial law over Mindanao. Marawi was mentioned 13 times in the Duterte's SONA in 2017.

"It is no red carpet but blackened debris, rubble that greet Maranaos in Ground Zero. We express our sadness at the unstable situation of rehabilitation with no clear direction and date in place 400 days since the siege," she said in an online post.

Although many of the city's residents have been able to return to their homes, those from what are now called "Most Affected Areas" have to wait for the government to clear them of unexploded ordnance and the threat of a return by Islamic State-inspired terrorists.

"We assert [Internally Displaced Persons] rights, our right to return to [Most Affected Areas], our original location, ancestral lands, as internationally guaranteed. We urge profiling , inventory of damaged properties and reparation, allow return to allow rebuilding," she also said.

Groups like Tindeg Ranao have been calling for the government to allow them to go home amid government plans for a military reservation and an ecozone. 

"We want to go back to our own land and rebuild Marawi with our own manner and strength," the group said in May.

"Plans have been made without our participation. Plans that neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture. Plans whose mechanics and implementation are not clear to us. But one thing is clear: the people of Marawi are largely left out," civilian group Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement also said.

READ: A year after Marawi siege, gov't uncertain when rehabilitation will start
 

RELATED VIDEO:

DUTERTE SONA 2018 LUMAD EVACUEES PEACE TALKS RODRIGO DUTERTE
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