Pagdiriwang ng Araw ng Kagitingan, A Gathering to Honor Filipinos Fighting for Democracy
April 9, 2018, Quezon City Sports Club
Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat. Hindi pala kayo takot sa “terorista,” bagkus ay gagawaran pa ng pagkilala ngayong Araw ng Kagitingan.
Maraming salamat po sa Movement Against Tyranny, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), Ladies Who Launch, Inc. and Coalition Against Darkness and Dictatorship sa karangalang ito. I am deeply honored and humbled.
I speak in behalf of the indigenous peoples and national minorities, a significant section of our population who have been historically minoritized and who are victims of continuing oppression and development aggression.
Throughout history, our ancestral lands have been plundered by big multi-national corporations or to make way for a development which is not of our own choosing, nor does it benefit us. Our indigenous socio-political systems, many of which persist to the present in varying degrees, are not recognized, or are misrepresented. Indigenous culture has been bastardized and commercialized.
Throughout history, we indigenous peoples and national minorities have been discriminated against, have been treated as second-class Filipinos, have suffered extreme government neglect as to be denied even the basic social services such as adequate education and health facilities. While our ancestral homelands have been treated as resource base for neo-liberal development, we have been marginalized and are among the most impoverished sections of Philippine society. We are to be found in the most distant, mountainous and rugged terrains, stewards of our ancestral lands and of the Filipino people’s remaining patrimony.
But oppression breeds resistance. In the heroic tradition of our forebears who resisted Spanish colonization and were thus not Christianized nor “Filipinized” in that first instance of colonization, we indigenous peoples and national minorities resist oppression and exploitation, discrimination and plunder. Thus, we assert our right to self-determination, to freely determine our political status and to define our economic, social and cultural development, at our own pace.
The struggle from minoritization and marginalization to indigenous people’s empowerment is not easy. It involves a protracted process of mass education, leadership training and building strong indigenous peoples’ organizations. It entails developing on the tribal practice of fetad or mass mobilization in defense of land, life, identity and honor to collective action at sama-samang pagkilos. It includes charting our own path of self-determined sustainable development. It necessitates bringing our issues to the wider public to draw their support. It means learning how to do and persevering at alliance work in order to build unity with other democratic forces in the wider society. It involves international solidarity work, to bring our issues to and draw support from the international community.
This, in brief, was the process when we established my organization, the Cordillera People’s Alliance, which has since grown from our founding in 1984 to the more than 300 peoples’ organizations to be found in all of the provinces of the Cordillera region at present. While predominantly indigenous in membership, CPA also includes the mixed organizations of workers, peasants, women, professionals, cultural workers, etc. especially in the urban center.
A similar process happened in building the strong Lumad organizations and regional alliances in Mindanao: the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, Kalumbay in Northern Mindanao, KASALO in CARAGA, Kaluhhamin in SOCKSARGEN, and SGS in Western Mindanao, and the Mindanao-wide Lumad alliance Kalumaran. So, too, the continuing organization of IP organizations in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Panay and Negros. All of these progressive IP organizations are allied under the banner of KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas.
Natatandaan pa ba natin ang Manilakbayan 2014 at 2015? The Mindanao Lumad organizations raised the bar of resistance and protest when they journeyed, in their numbers, from Mindanao to the National Capital Region to nationalize their issues and generate support. This courageous move reverberated throughout the other IP organizations who were challenged to meet up with and come together in a national IP Salubungan of resistance.
In 2016, learning from Manilakbayan, and levelling up, we launched SANDUGO Kilusan ng Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan. This is the formation which unites the Moro people and indigenous peoples as national minorities in our common struggle against oppression and discrimination.
In addition to the Lakbayan at Pambansang Salubungan ng Pambansang Minorya sa Mendiola, a Kampuhan was set up at UP Diliman through the gracious hosting of Chancellor Mike Tan and the UP Diliman community. Last year, Sitio Sandugo at the UPD stud farm was the venue for so many events and educational activities, immersion, discussion groups, teach-ins, exhibit and sales, and with nightly cultural programs. What was so heartwarming was the warm welcome and support that we received from the other sectors and communities throughout our journey and stay at Sitio Sandugo.
Our resistance, or the assertion of our human rights and our right to self-determination has not come easy. Our organizations, leaders and members have been victimized by extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, trumped-up charges, red-tagging and political vilification, threat, harassment and intimidation. Worse, the continued militarization of our communities has led to the phenomenon of bakwit, or forced evacuation, and the growing number of internally-displaced refugees.
The situation has worsened under the Duterte administration. Katribu reports that 39 IPs have been extra-judicially killed, 36 of them Lumad, from July 2016 to February 2018. This number has since increased to include Ricardo Mayumi, indigenous peasant leader and environment defender from Ifugao.
Eight of the EJK victims are high-profile leaders of IP organizations, who were tagged as NPAs, but are actually indigenous leaders of communities engaged in struggles against destructive extractive corporations. Among the victims were 2 children and 3 women, including Makinet Gayoran, who was 4 months pregnant when she was shot dead by members of the paramilitary group NIPAR in Bukidnon. Also included are the eight Tboli and Dulangan Manobo who were massacred in Lake Sebu last December.
Under Duterte’s watch, Katribu has documented 34 incidents of bakwit, or the forced evacuation of communities due to militarization, affecting a total of 24,766 individuals. There were 12 incidents of bombings by the military, affecting 1168 families and 6354 individuals. Five involved aerial bombings, while seven involved artillery bombardment in the provinces of Abra in the Cordillera region, Oriental Mindoro, Agusan del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Saranggani in Mindanao. There is the added imposition of food and economic blockades during military operations.
In terms of aerial bombing and forced evacuation, nothing can match the total levelling to the ground of the historic Muslim city of Marawi, and the evacuation of its whole Meranao population of 300,000-400,000, in line with the US “war on terror” and martial law in Mindanao. In the Marawi siege, there were 14,000 cases of human rights violations recorded by the Regional Human Rights Commission of the ARMM. Practically all of the Meranao people’s homes were destroyed, but there were 56 cases of looting by the military of abandoned wealth and belongings documented by the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission. The military account of civilian deaths is woefully understated, such that we may never know the real score. The humanitarian crisis continues. The displaced Moro population are now asserting their human right to return and rebuild their homes and livelihood, but the government seems to have other plans for the rehabilitation of Marawi.
In Mindanao, to fill up the void of government neglect and to advance self-determined development efforts, local Lumad organizations set up their own Lumad schools, with the help of religious groups and NGOs. These schools have been accredited by the Department of Education and some have even been granted awards for excellence in alternative education. And yet, in another of the President’s rants, he threatened to bomb Lumad schools.
As a result of the continuing attacks on Lumad schools, 39 have been forced to close down, including 22 which have been used as military encampments. Hundreds of students and their volunteer teachers have been traumatized by indiscriminate firing and the destruction of school properties. And we should never forget the gruesome killings of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development) executive director Emerito Samarca, tribal chieftain Dionel Campos and his cousin Juvello Sinzo; nor the killing of Grade 6 Manobo student Obello Bay-ao by indigenous para-military groups armed and let loose by the military. It is no wonder then why the campaign to Save Our Schools is a continuing effort of the Lumad organizations.
Another form of repression is the filing of trumped-up charges against indigenous leaders and activists. Dozens of leaders of indigenous organizations have been included in trumped-up criminal cases such as murder and kidnapping. The Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action is a platform for State sponsored terrorism using the Philippine justice system against legitimate political dissent. It has been a practice of State security forces to use trumped up charges to threaten, harass, intimidate and “neutralize” those they deem as “enemies of the State” including legitimate political activists.
The latest fascist attack on activists is to label us as terrorists
On February 23, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition in the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 in Manila to have the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) declared as terrorist organizations under Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, otherwise known as the anti-terrorism law. The petition includes 656 names whom the government alleges are CPP-NPA officers and members, and therefore terrorists.
I am included in that terrorist list, as are six other high-profile former and present CPA – i.e. Cordillera People’s Alliance, not CPP-NPA, personalities. The others are our present chairperson, Windel Bolinget; former CPA chair Beverly Longid, now Global coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation and co-chair of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness; former CPA chair Joan Carling, now co-chair of the IP Major Group for Sustainable Development and past secretary-general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP); former CPA Chair Jose Molintas, human rights lawyer and former Asia representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Baguio city councilor; Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, former secretary-general of Tongtongan ti Umili – CPA urban chapter, and now regional coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers; and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former CPA chair and now the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Last December, after meeting with Lumad organizations, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and the UN Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, came out with a statement critical of the human rights violations in Mindanao. Including Tauli-Corpuz in the terrorist list seems to be a form of reprisal against her and the United Nations.
Why is the Duterte regime so afraid of the Cordillera People’s Alliance that they have to demonize its past and present leaders as terrorists? CPA is an open and democratic organization duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, with our regional office in Baguio City and provincial offices in the provincial town centers. We were at the forefront of the anti-Marcos dictatorship in the region. We lobbied the Constitution Commission to include the provisions on ancestral land rights and regional autonomy. We protest destructive mining and dam projects, and fight against human rights violations. We participated at the UN in drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We commemorate the martyrdom of Macliing Dulag and other Cordillera martyrs through our annual celebration of Cordillera Day as a gathering of solidarity and struggle. Other IP groups have since defined their day – Mangyan, Aeta, Dumagat. Our achievements and activities are a matter of public record, as many of these are covered by the mass media. We are an activist organization and we are proud to be so.
The terrorist list also includes 24 leaders and members of grassroots Lumad organizations from Mindanao, several of them datus, or village chieftains. 17 are members of the TIKULPA organization of Manobo ang Matigsalog in North Cotabato and Bukidnon including Datu Isidro Indao, council member of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad organizations in Duterte’s Davao region; six are with the Pigyayongaan organization including Talaandig Datu Mandayhon Han-ayan who is affiliated with the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization in Northern Mindanao, and one is Datu Mampadayag, a Banwaon village chief and elder, and a member of the Tagdumahan organization in Agusan del Sur, affiliated with KASALO in the CARAGA region.
In addition, the list also includes recognized national activists such as Satur Ocampo, Elisa Tita Lubi and Rey Casambre, the consultants in the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP, and a number of legitimate rights defenders in some regions. There are also eight in the list who are already deceased and two desaparacidos. Furthermore, there are 190 names which are just aliases, whose true names are unknown. The DOJ petition also includes John Does and Jane Does, such that anybody can be tagged as a terrorist and added to the list. The list even includes the names of a number of notorious para-military individuals who have been accused of killing indigenous activists in Mindanao – now those are the real terrorists.
However ludicrous and outrageous the terrorist list is, there is however the real threat to our security, and to that of our families and supporters, as witness what the Tokhang list has resulted in.
Karapatan has warned that the anti-terrorism law contains broad, vague, and malicious provisions, with far-reaching implications on the people’s exercise of their civil and political rights. This petition is a clear manifestation of how the anti-terror law can be easily and arbitrarily used by those in power to suppress legitimate dissent. It is part of the whole design of the Duterte administration to silence critics of his tyrannical rule, amid the growing opposition to its fascist and anti-people policies.
Shall we allow ourselves to be silenced? NO WAY!
Let us persist to resist and fight for our democratic rights. It is through activities such as this that a broad united front coalesces with a common cause. Let us unite to fight against darkness and dictatorship. We were able to oust a dictator then, we should be able to do so again.
We appeal for your support and solidarity on the following demands:
Let us draw strength from the blood of our martyrs, from their steadfastness, selflessness and valor…
Let us draw courage from the spirit of indigenous people’s resistance to the Chico dams, Alcantara and Sons, DCMI…
Let us draw inspiration from our ever-dynamic IP-NM mass movement, from the elders persevering despite their aches and pains, to the peasants who make up our numbers, to the women holding up half of the sky, to the cultural workers and youth who provide the continuity to the struggle.
Activists are not terrorists. The real terrorist is the fascist Duterte regime.
Sa mga magigiting na aktibista ng Cordillera People’s Alliance, ng KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, ng SANDUGO Kilusan ng Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya, ang karangalang ito ay para sa ating lahat. Mabuhay!