Lumads begin week-long camp-out in UP Diliman
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - October 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Hundreds of lumads who travelled all the way from Mindanao have started their week-long camp-out at the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

University officials, faculty and students led by Chancellor Michael Tan met the lumads during the symbolic salubungan near the iconic Oblation on Monday night.

“As the national university, we have to project the situation of all sectors here in the Philippines,” Tan said in an interview with reporters.

“It’s an opportunity to educate our students,” he added.

According to the university, the camp-out seeks the exposure and exchange between the public and the lumad through interactive activities such as political and educational discussions and protests.

Various activities, including a benefit concert and a series of cultural activities, are scheduled for the members of various indigenous groups who travelled to Manila to voice their call to end human rights violations in their communities.

Also on Monday night, members of the UP Fighting Maroons men’s basketball team held a basketball clinic for lumad children, who joined members of their community in the nine-day journey to reach the nation’s capital.

A protest rally will also be held today at the Commission on Human Rights, which earlier initiated an investigation into the death of lumad leaders allegedly at the hands of paramilitary groups.

During the formal welcome yesterday, members of the UP community expressed support for calls to end militarization in lumad communities that resulted in displacement of thousands of indigenous peoples.

The ongoing armed conflict of the military with the New People’s Army (NPA) likewise resulted in the closure of several schools in lumad communities in Mindanao.

‘We are not NPA’

Datu Jomorito Guaynon, a lumad leader from Bukidnon, denied coddling NPA members, saying they are merely defending their ancestral lands from mining firms that wish to exploit the resources.

“Why can’t they understand that we just want to protect our lands for the next generation?” he asked in Filipino.

Guaynon said 144 lumad leaders have been killed due to the increasing presence of military in their communities. Among them was Emerito Samarca, executive director of lumad-led Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture, who was also found dead inside the school compound on Sept. 1.

Two other community leaders, Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo, were killed by alleged members of Magahat/Bagani paramilitary force in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Michelle Campos, daughter of Dionel, was among those who joined the Manilakbayan to call for justice for her slain father and the other lumad leaders.

The military denied having a hand in the create of the paramilitary forces, saying these are groups composed of former members of the NPA. They also attributed the killings to a supposed ongoing tribal conflict in the areas.

Support snowballs

Meanwhile, over 70 indigenous organizations have written to President Aquino to urge him to act on the continuing cases of extrajudicial killings in lumad communities in Mindanao.

The organizations urged Aquino to initiate an independent and transparent investigation to look into the alleged roles of the military and the paramilitary groups in the violence against the lumads across Mindanao.

 “Further, we appeal to you to take immediate measures to disband all paramilitary groups, whether these are within the investment defense forces or not, and revoke the Executive Order 546, which legitimizes formation of such paramilitary groups,” they added.

Among those that endorsed the letter were organizations from Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bang-ladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Nepal, France, United Kingdom and Australia.

ACIRC ALTERNATIVE LEARNING CENTER CHANCELLOR MICHAEL TAN DATU JOMORITO GUAYNON DIONEL CAMPOS AND AURELIO SINZO EMERITO SAMARCA EXECUTIVE ORDER FIGHTING MAROONS HUMAN RIGHTS LUMAD MINDANAO
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