Lumads’ appeal to Duterte: ‘Pull out military’

Lumads’ appeal to Duterte: ‘Pull out military’

Some 300 Manobo Lumad from Talaingod and Kapalong towns in Davao del Norte sought refuge in Tagum City due to intensified military operations in the area.

By Mark Joy G. Basallajes

July 23, 2018

DAVAO CITY

“The land is ours. And yet, we cannot go back to our land because we are being treated as enemies of the state. We only want to live in peace.”

This was the appeal made by Datu Tungig Mansumuy during a recent Franciscan Dialogue program held from July 5 to 9 in Barangay San Isidro, Tagum City.

He expressed hope President Rodrigo Duterte will work to resume peace talks and order the pull-out of military troops from Lumad communities.

‘Subversive teachings’

Mansumuy-at said they were appalled when President Duterte, in a press briefing after his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, said he will order the military to bomb Lumad schools for “its subversive teachings.”

“We just want our children to continue their studies to learn how to write and read. We want the future of our children different from us. But what the government is doing is to refuse us the education,” he said.

According to Mansumuy-at, the Lumads experienced threats and harassment from soldiers who accused them of being New People’s Army (NPA) supporters.

He also lamented, “We are being tagged as NPA members and our schools are tagged as NPA schools.”

Intensified military operations

Some 300 Manobo Lumad from Talaingod and Kapalong towns in Davao del Norte sought refuge in Tagum City due to intensified military operations in the area.

“We are not terrorists, we are indigenous people,” said Mansumuy-at, who has been at an evacuation site for almost a year.

The Lumad leader added that peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines should continue.

He said the negotiation table is still the best venue to talk about ending armed conflict in the country and how to address its roots.

Mansumuy-at said they longed to go home but feared soldiers would go after them.

“The military troops are still in the area and they continue to threaten to kill us,”  he explained.

Manobo resistance

He added, “(W)e decided to go down and leave our land for safety. We also want our plight to be heard by the government and the public.”

Mansumuy-at said the Manobos in Talaingod have long been fighting to defend their ancestral land.

In 1994, the entry of the logging company Alcantara and Sons Inc., in Talaingod sparked resistance from the Manobo communities.

He said many of their fellow Manobos were killed for defending their land.

“Alsons was interested [in] the resource-rich Pantaron range,” said Mansumuy-at.

Meanwhile, the Franciscan brothers also conducted a medical mission at the evacuation site.

“It is heart breaking to see the suffering of our Lumad brothers and sisters because of the militarization in their ancestral domain. Furthermore, the various incidents of red tagging contradict their identities as peace-loving people. They are just but victims of the immense power and capacity of those people who wants to dominate their ancestral domain,” said Br. Mark Anthony Zarate, OFM one of the participants of the Franciscan Dialogue program.