ROUGH CUTS| Which way our lumads be led to

THAT the lumads in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country deserve the same attention from government as the rest of their fellow Filipinos is a constitutional guarantee. That under the same constitution the lumads, too, have the right to seek redress of their grievances from the government that seems to have denied them of the attention they rightly deserve.

     These days, it now appears that the lumads, specifically from Mindanao, are now invoking their right for redress of their grievances after experiencing serious and even deadly attacks on their persons and some institutions that are helping them get out from the quagmire of ignorance due to lack of education.

     Today, a group of indigenous people from Mindanao is now in Manila after a long march. They are there to bring their protest against the abuses of government soldiers and their fellow lumads who are recruited by the military to become members of paramilitary units now being used to fight insurgents in the hinterlands of Mindanao, specifically in the Davao and Caraga regions.

     According to the lumads, their communities are subjected to heavy militarization and they who refused to join the paramilitary organizations are accused of being members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) or are their supporters.

     So, as claimed by the lumads, they are continuously subjected to harassments and intimidation. But what seems to them as the ultimate attack on their persons and community are the destructions of educational institutions that are providing them the opportunity to attend school. Not only that, in the uplands of Lianga in Surigao del Sur, not only was their school subjected to suspicion that it is being used by the rebels to indoctrinate the lumads to accept their cause, the teachers were intimated leading to the killing of a school official and two others

     In Kitaotao, Bukidnon, it was reported that the barangay captain of White Culaman, with the backing of some of his men and military personnel, destroyed the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School. The said educational institution is catering to the educational needs of the lumads in the area since the mainstream public school is hardly accessible to them due to distance and rugged terrain.

     The illegal action of the barangay captain and his mob was done despite the warning of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bukidnon that no one has the authority to padlock, much more destroy, a school except the DepEd.

     Still, the barangay captain proceeded like he was king who could just do anything he wants. And again, this is all because the school is suspected to be used by the rebels as their indoctrinating venue and that the lumads are supporting the insurgents’ cause.

     Frankly, we do not believe that the lumads are supporting the rebels, more so are they members of the insurgent organization. If at all they have at one time or another, given food or shelter to them, or they have denied to the military the rebels’ presence in their area, it is because they have no other choice. It is their lives that are at stake because the uplands are their abode and it is the only place that they can live comfortably without the discrimination of the socially-classed lowlanders.

     In other words, with hardly any government services present, they are sandwiched in the protracted war between the establishment and the rebels who are espousing an ideology they would want to substitute the one in place under the present system.

     Unfortunately however, the lumads knowingly or unknowingly, are actually made pawns by both the government and the rebels. The government, through the military, is tapping one sector of the lumad population who finds carrying guns issued by their sponsor as their source of authority and brute power. And it is this sense of authority that gives them the raw courage to go on rampage against their own lumad brothers.

     On the other hand, the disadvantaged lumad sector, seeing that it is their military-supported brothers who are undertaking harassments and intimidations, have no other to turn to for protection and support. They go to activist groups known to be sympathetic to the cause of the rebels.

     So, seeing the lumads tenaciously hike to Manila to be nearer the center of government and the agencies they think can act on their protest, should not be surprising anymore. They are being organized; they are given moral and material support. Their protest action is coordinated straight from where they are up to where they are headed to.

     Indeed, which way our lumad brothers have to be led to? Monitoring the series of incidents involving our lumad population we can only think of that saying in Filipino: “Sala sa init, sala sa lamig.”

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Posted in Opinion