Statement of Protest Against the NCIP’s Resolution Denouncing the Use of Term Lumad

Statement of Protest Against the NCIP’s Resolution Denouncing the Use of Term Lumad

In the strongest possible terms, we the members of the Episcopal Commission for Indigenous People (ECIP) – Mindanao, along with those who constitute the Indigenous Peoples’ Apostolate of Mindanao’s dioceses protest against the resolution passed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) “denouncing the use of the term ‘Lumad’ to refer to indigenous cultural communities / indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) particularly of Mindanao and enjoining the public to address ICCs/IPs by their respective ICC/IP affiliation or ethnolinguistic group.”

The NCIP en banc passed Resolution 08-009-2021 on March 2, 2021 as it claimed that the “emergence and continued use (of Lumad) is marred by its association with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), NDF (National Democratic Front) and NPA (New Peoples’ Army).” It further claimed that the “emergence and continued use (of Lumad) is marred by its association with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), NDF (National Democratic Front) and NPA (New Peoples’ Army).”

News reports appearing in social media have indicated that the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) have joined in the red-tagging of the word Lumad. In the wake of the State’s implementation of the anti-terror law, red-tagging is no longer confined against human persons who they have labelled as communists or communist sympathizers. The State’s red scare campaign is now targeting even words.

Directly associating the word Lumad with the NDF-CPP-NPA as if this word was coined by the communist rebels and consequently banning it from popular usage is a total disservice to the history of the struggles of the indigenous peoples. This is furthest from the historical truth, and thus the NCIP’s Resolution only reveals the Commission members’ ignorance as to how the Lumad struggles unfolded in Mindanao in the last sixty years.

All they could have done was not just to rely on the testimony of one discredited Lumad leader – who apparently is their only source of information – but to gather all published and unpublished books, articles in journals and documentations from various sources so they could have known how Lumad as a word referring to Mindanao’s IPs entered popular usage. A number of these are readily available.

Ms. Carol Arguillas of Minda News has recently written an investigative report detailing how Lumad arose as a popular name for Mindanao’s IPs. (See: “The IP struggle continues as NCIP red-tags and bans use of “Lumad,” the collective word for Mindanao IPs since the late 1970s,” c/o mindanews.com). In her article, she cited the works of historian Rudy Rodil, anthropologists Karl Gaspar CSsR, Gus Gatmaytan and Eizel Hilario. Goggle the word LUMAD and these various literature will inform the reader the extent of its popular usage. Just recently, no less than the government’s National Museum, through its Ethnology Division, published LUMAD MINDANAO, a publication detailing the historical and ethnographic realities of Mindanao’s IPs. Meanwhile at the National Museum itself, there is such an exhibit of the Lumads’ cultural artifacts.

A Cebuano word meaning native or indigenous, Lumad began to refer to the IPs when the Church in Mindanao (both Catholic and Protestant) began to use this term during their meetings, conferences and assemblies since the mid- 1970s. In the wake of Vatican II, the Catholic dioceses of Mindanao-Sulu first established the Mindanao-Sulu Social Action Secretariat (MISSSA). Eventually as the bishops were expanding their concern beyond social action to cover other pastoral concerns especially in the wake of the setting up of Basic Christian Communities (later renamed Base Ecclesial Communities), they set up the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference with a Secretariat (MSPCS).

Both MISSSA and MSPCS then got involved in bringing together priests, religious and lay people as well as IP leaders for consultations following reports of abuses and atrocities impacting the lives of the Lumad communities. The First Mindanao Regional Conference on Cultural Communities was convened in Lake Sebu, Surallah, South Cotabato on February 5-7, 1974 “to give voice to the Mindanao minorities… a voice of anguish, frustration and fear; a voice crying out, almost without hope, appealing to the Christian communities of Mindanao.” Bishop Francisco Claver of the Diocese of Malaybalay was one of the convenors.

As most of these meetings were conducted in Cebuano-Bisaya (being understood and spoken by most of the participants), and since names like nitibo, cultural minorities and tribal people (were being rejected as pejorative) and it was cumbersome to mention all the names of all ethnolingustic groups, a word like Lumad began to be used to refer to them.

When Catholic and Protestant church leaders began to collaborate in their response to the injustices suffered by the Lumad, along with the Moro people, they established the Mindanao-Sulu Conference for Justice and Development (MSCJD) in the late 1970s which spearheaded a more aggressive campaign to organize IP communities so they can advance their struggle for their rights. By then, Lumad had become a popular term which then got picked up by other civil society organizations and cultural groups.

Ms. Arguillas’ report indicated that “the NCIP resolution claimed the word ‘Lumad’ was adopted by members of the Lumad Mindanao Peoples Foundation (LMPF) on June 26, 1986 during its founding congress in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. It added that the founding congress and subsequent meetings and activities of the LMPF “were initiated and sponsored” by the CPP, NDF, NPA.” However IP leaders had earlier set up the Lumad Mindanaw Peoples Federation which, according to Jimid Mansayagan, chair of its Governing Council, was founded in September 1994 as a “genuine indigenous peoples organization with vision of asserting the inherent inalienable and collective rights to identity, land territory, self-determination and self-governance.”

With this letter we are setting the record straight. It was the churches in Mindanao-Sulu – through its network of church people engaged in solidarity work with the Lumad communities – that gave rise to the popular usage of the word Lumad. It arose without an ideological agenda, let alone that of the communist movement. It did arise out of a united people’s concern to defend the rights of the Lumad from the perspective of a Christian faith that is concerned with the least of our brothers and sisters victimized by both an repressive State and business firms interested in usurping the Lumads’ ancestral domains for profit purposes.

We humbly request the NCIP not to be derailed in their mandate to serve the IPs of this country by engaging in actions that are only counter-productive and can only lead to fragmentations among our ranks. Instead, the NCIP should concentrate in fulfilling their tasks to support the struggles of the IPs for a better life, lived in justice and peace, free from coercion, harassment and victimization from various forces.

On our part, we pledge to continue what we have done in the past sixty years, to align ourselves in the struggles of our Lumad sisters and brothers. By doing so, we are merely following the exhortations of our Holy Father, Pope Francis who have reminded us through his encyclical Laudato Si and talks at various fora that “Indigenous peoples are a cry of hope. They know what it is to listen to the earth, to see the earth, to touch the earth. They remind us that we human beings have a shared responsibility to care for our ‘common home’.”

And it is “by engaging in generous dialogue and by joining forces, that we will end up becoming more aware of the fact that we need each other, as well as be able to highlight the fact that harmful behaviour affecting the environment around us also has a negative impact on the serenity and fluidity of coexistence; that indigenous people cannot continue to suffer injustice and that young people have a right to a better world than ours and expect coherent and convincing responses from us.”

Archbishop Jose A. Cabantan, D.D
Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
On behalf of ECIP-Mindanao and IPA network

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