'Lakbayan' held to highlight IP issues, not recruit rebels — Sandugo

'Lakbayan' held to highlight IP issues, not recruit rebels � Sandugo
In this August 2017 file photo, Moros, indigenous people leave camp at Fuente Osmeña and head to Colon Sreet in Cebu City for a rally to cap the last day of the caravan there.
The Freeman / May Miasco

MANILA, Philippines — The Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya, last held in 2017, is meant to bring the capital's attention to indigenous peoples' issues and is led by actual national minorities, an IP coalition that organized them said.

Sandugo (Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination) issued the statement to claims made at a Senate hearing on red-tagging held this week, where the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency characterized the march as a scheme by "communist-terrorist groups" to recruit underage "so-called lumads" to take up arms against the government.

"We would like to clarify: our Lakbayanis are not, to use the NICA's exact words, merely 'so-called lumads.' They are genuine Lumad, Aeta, Dumagat, Mangyan, Igorot, Moro, and other ethnolinguistic groups. They are real national minorities, representing the very real interests of their tribes. Anyone who came to our campsite and partook of their stories would know that every word came from their hearts," Sandugo said.

"At the 2017 Lakbayan, the national minorities emphasized their long-standing call for peace, justice, and accessible social services. It is ridiculous that instead of listening to these rightful calls, the Duterte government took these as a threat and labeled our event a recruitment plot," it also said.

FROM INTERAKSYON: Lumad, Marawi bakwits set off on ‘lakbayan’ for peace, self-determination

The coalition said that the label of "so-called lumad" on the IP activist groups was ironic, claiming that the government has been "[proclaiming] fake datus (tribal leaders) throughout Mindanao, who were then maximized as sycophants to buttress the military’s propaganda."

The group said the proclaimed datus are not recognized by the community but have "been empowered and armed by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] to lead paramilitary groups which sow discord and fear among communities." 

"These are the very same militia that massacred many genuine datus who resisted the encroachment of mining corporations in their ancestral lands," Sandugo also said.

The use of ancestral domain, which require the consent of the IP community, has long been an issue and a source of tension as has the determination of who should represent the community.

READ: IP rights advocates wary of using 'idle' ancestral domain as food production areas

In April, the Department of Agriculture proposed developing "idle" IP lands for its "Plant, Plant, Plant" campaign. "Aside from profitable types of vegetables — like onion, string beans, potato, carrots, pineapple, garlic, cauliflower, and watermelon — our brother IPs can grow cacao, coffee, abaca or black pepper, or they may go into raising native pigs and free-range chicken," Agriculture Secretary William Dar said then.

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna party-list), a Manobo leader, clarified in response that indigenous land is not idle. "From the start, this has been used productively, cared for and preserved by the IPs because this is our land and our livelihood," she said in Filipino in April.

"We defend ancestral land from mining and plantations because we know they are important in achieving food security," Cullamat said. "But the government insists on these (kinds of ) projects. Now they are insisting on this project even while we are in the middle of a pandemic."

Sandugo also said then that the Philippines already had 7 million hectares of farmland in 2012, "[including] indigenous lands converted throughout history, by force or deception, into large-scale plantations and private farms" that can be used for food production.

"These millions of hectares of plantations produce not food for our citizens, but raw export materials like palm oil, rubber, orchids, and fruits."

RELATED: Lumads, advocates mark fifth year since Lianga killings

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