MANILA, Philippines — Once more, as they have over the past years, lumad of Mindanao have come to Manila to ask government to let them live in peace, to end the militarization that has trapped them in a cycle of violence and displacement and which, they say, martial law in Mindanao has only worsened.
Ironically, this time they do so under a president they believed would be their champion. After all, his city, Davao, was one of their sanctuaries whenever they fled whenever the men with guns entered and occupied their communities, often ahead of business interests eager to plunder their resource-rich ancestral lands.
This was why, said Datu Rudy Ugking, a Manobo chieftain from Tago town, Surigao del Sur, “we actually voted for him as a bloc.”
But here they are again, bewildered that nothing has changed under President Rodrigo Duterte and has, in fact, led to more suffering since the whole of Mindanao was placed under martial law on May 23.
These are the very same lumad who, in 2015, fled their homes in Surigao del Sur en masse when a military-backed militia murdered a revered teacher and, in front of them, executed two tribal leaders; or their villages in the Davao provinces and Compostela Valley because soldiers camped in their “NPA (New People’s Army) schools, threatening the teachers and students, accusing them of supporting the rebels.
Small wonder Datu Rudy, asked how he feels about the current state of things, replied: “Grabe, sayop kaayo ‘tong amo nga siya ang among giboto (We were really wrong to have voted for him).”
Here is what the other lumad who have come to Metro Manila have to say:
Gliza Joy Belandres, 15, third year high school:
“Nakita ko mismo kung paano sila pinaslang, nasa harap ako ni Dionel Campos, at nasa likod naman si Datu Juvello Sinzo.”
(I saw how they were murdered, I was in front of Dionel Campos and Datu Jovello Sinzo was behind me.)
“Lahat ng mga tao ay pinalabas at inipon sa labas, kaming mga estudyante ay nandoon (sa gilid), pinapunta nila si Dionel Campos sa harap namin at sabi nila magpapa-picture lang daw. Pinadapa siya at saka binaril sa may mata at lumabas sa likod, isang putok lang, isa lang ang bumaril, pero lahat ng military na nasa paligid namin ay nagpapaputok.”
(They ordered all the people outside and gathered us together, we students to the side, then they brought Dionel Campos in front of us and said they would just take a picture. They made him lie face down on the ground and then shot him by the eye, the bullet exiting from the back, only one shot, only one gunman, but all the military in the area fired their weapons.)
“‘Di po aka natatakot dahil naging hamon ‘yung massacre na ipagpatuloy ang kanilang nasimulan, ang kanilang itinuturo ay katotohanan lamang. Ang paborito kong subject ay history at agriculture. Pinakamasakit na (pagbintangan) dahil nakikita namin kung paano kami tinuturuan ng mga guro namin.
(I am not afraid because the massacre became a challenge to continue what they had started, the truth they had taught us. My favorite subjects are history and agriculture. What hurts most are the accusations because we see how our teachers educate us.)
Geann Subay, 15, 1st year high school:
Gusto kong maging teacher para makatulong sa mga Mamanwa.
(I want to be a teacher to help the Mamanwa.)
Kenneth Cadiang, 23, UP graduate, ALCADEV volunteer teacher, mathematics and history
“Nag-camping at nanawagan sila noong huling Lakbayan 2015. Sa mga problema, tumugon kaming apat na estudyante, ngayon pagka-graduate namin naging volunteer teachers kami, para makatayo ulit sila, para sa isang libreng edukasyon … 200 na ang mga high school students natin sa ALCADEV. May tatlong pending na mining permits — Semirara, Benguet, Abacus — ngayon na-reverse ang decision ni Gina Lopez dahil former military ang DENR chief, lalong tumingkad ang militarisasyon.”
(They camped and issued their calls during the Lakbayan in 2015. Four of us students responded to their problems and after graduating, we became volunteer teachers to help them rise again through free education … we have 200 high school students now at ALCADEV. There are three pending mining permits — Semirara, Benguet, Abacus — now that the decision of Gina Lopez has been reversed and because the DENR chief is a former military man, militarization has worsened.)
Aizel Bada, 15, 1st year high school
“Para sa aking mga magulang na matulungan sila sa pagsasaka, pagsikapan ko makatulong pati sa komunidad.”
(For my parents, to help them farm, and to do my best to help my community.)
“Ayaw ko ng martial law dahil sa pangyayari noong 2015, naalala ko, natatakot dahil baka maulit.”
(I do not want martial law because of hat happened in 2015, I still remember and am afraid it might happen again.)
Glenda May Iño Pagalan, 15, 1st year high school
“Gusto naming itigil ang martial law.”
(We want an end to martial law.)
Adrian Campos, 11, third child of Dionel Campos
“Naiiyak ako dahil naalala ang krimen.”
(I cry because I remember the crime.)
Juliet Ribano, 31, ALCADEV alumna, farmer and mother of two boys, both TRIFPSS students
“Doon kami nakatira sa kabundukan. Noong ‘di pa martial law mina-martial na kami. Lalo na ngayong may martial law na, palaging paulit-ulit na bakwit. Nag-aaral ang mga anak namin, sana ‘di na dagdagan ang martial law. Hindi na din mawala sa isip ko ang pagpatay sa aming leader, nasa panganib na ang buhay namin, ang mga guro laging binabanataan na papatayin.”
(We live in the mountains. Even before martial law, it was already like martial law for us. Now that there is martial law, evacuation has become a cycle. Our children are studying, we wish martial law did not add to our problems. The killing of our leader cannot leave my thought, our lives are in danger, they constantly threaten to kill our teachers.)
Alex Tejero, 39, farmer and father of an ALCADEV graduate and five TRIFPSS students
“Gusto ko matigil ang martial law.”
(I want martial law to end.)
“Itigil ang martial law, pag-atake sa lugar, na dislokar na sila at naging bakwit.”
(End martial law and the attacks on the place, they have been dislocated and become evacuees.)
Datu Rudy Ugking
“Mula noon hanggang ngayon, ito na ang problema namin.”
(From then till now, this is our problem.)