DAVAO CITY – An administrator of a school owned by Lumads but run by educators and missionaries from the non-government sector said government appear to receive a “slap in the face” whenever individuals and organizations donate funds, materials and moral support to indigenous peoples.
“It means the government has not been doing its role of giving importance to the plight of the lumads for education, much more it is the perpetrator of various human rights violations against them,” said Ronnie Garcia, who is the Basic Education In-Charge of the schools of Manobo organization Salugpungan Ta Ta’nu Igkanugon Learning Center Incorporated.
Garcia issued the statement to answer accusation of the Army and police that lumad evacuees now in a church-owned compound in Davao City “are just being used to obtain funding.”
“That is a very desperate and blatant lie and insensitive to how these statements would impact on lumads. It is also a direct attack to the lumads themselves who are the benefeciaries of help,” he said.
He said that if government was unable to provide for the indigenous communities, “it should instead implement its mandate under signed conventions on human rights and rights of the IPs like the United Nations.”
“Instead of making accusations, the government should look into billions corrupted by government officials under the Aquino administration and the human rights violations being committed by the military,” he said.
Garcia said “the international community, especially those who conducted immersion in lumad communities have witnessed for themselves the situation.”
Garcia said “these groups help lumads without giving conditions.”
“Their sheer humanity moved them to help the lumads in all fronts, even sacrificing their own security by coming to highly militarized communities,” he said.
As an administrator of lumad schools, Garcia said he saw for himself how “international support translated into the construction of classrooms and even new schools.”
Sandie Richards, pastor in charge at the United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California said “(t)he Salugpungan school is supported by our Southern California coalition of organizations because it is an effective way for the Talingod Manobo children to receive the education they deserve.”
Richards said they formed the alliance Panaghiusa (Solidarity) which includes other religious organizations.
Richards said the group went to Talaingod in 2012 themselves to hand-over goods for the school, and affirmed that they provided funding “such as new buildings which we have seen were built.”
These things they also report when they got back to the US for the other members of the organization.
Over recent years, Richards said “(t)here is always surprise (on the part of the members on) the challenges facing the Talaingod Manobo to live peacefully on their own land.”
Richards said they were able to talk to California Senator Barbara Box the Consul General for the Philippines in Los Angeles to express their concern of the Manobos.
“There have been letter writing campaign from our end, and we have worked closely with national and international entities to share the news and advocate for peace on behalf of our Manobo friends,” she said.
Richards said they “stand firmly on the side of anti-militarism and for peace.”
More than 700 Ata-Manobos from Talaingod and other tribes from Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon sought refuge in the Haran House compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City since May to prevent alleged further harassment over Army allegations that they supported the communist-led guerrillas.
Violence erupted last month when North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, chairperson of the House committee on indigenous peoples, directed the police to assault the UCCP compound to remove the tribal evacuees. Only the arrival of Davao City Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte prevented the commotion from getting worse.(davaotoday.com)