DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Indigenous People’s organizations under PASAKA presented their “Lumad Agenda” on Saturday, April 27, in a bid for the electoral candidates to hear and recognize the aspirations and rights of IPs in the country as the May elections near.
PASAKA hoped that candidates would push for the respect to the rights of IPs, particularly the right to life, to thrive, the right to public services in the field of education, health, and economy, and the right to self-determination.
The group also encouraged them to stand with the IPs in protecting their ancestral lands, not to allow the entry of big foreign mining corporations and quick expansion of plantations.
“They should push for the passage of laws that truly benefit the people. What happens now is they create laws that serve only the interests of the foreign capitalists,” stressed Jong Monzon, PASAKA secretary-general.
The IPs also urged the candidates to call for the continuation of the disrupted peace talks. On March, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the “permanent termination” of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This was subsequent to the termination of members of the government peace panel.
Monzon believed it is important that those who get to sit in government to recognize and discuss the root cause of the armed conflict in the countryside.
“Candidates should recognize that there is an economic problem that needed to be resolved first in order to put an end to the war in the countryside,” Monzon said.
The group wished for the candidates to pursue peace and allow those affected by conflicts and currently staying in the evacuation centers to come back to their communities.
PASAKA made a call for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao. Since President Rodrigo Duterte signed its declaration, cases of lumad and peasant killings and other forms of human rights violations have escalated, the group asserted.
Monzon lamented that the majority of lawmakers still favor the extension of the imposition of martial law in Mindanao.
He also challenged the candidates “to personally look at the situation of lumad in the countryside to know the impact of martial law that has long disturbed their lives.
They demand as well for the pull-out of the military in hinterlands, disarm the members of paramilitary groups like ALAMARA, and to stop recruitment of IPs to become members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
Meanwhile, PASAKA said that senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares and the Makabayan bloc so far were able to be consistent in hearing the plight of the IPs but emphasized that the group is also open to other candidates who would be willing to bring the agenda of the IPs. (davaotoday.com)