CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – More students in Metro Manila are now aware of the plight of the indigenous peoples (IPs) of Mindanao due to the conduct of the Lakbayan of National Minorities as its hundreds of Moro and Lumad delegates returned home Tuesday, September 26.
Datu Jimboy Mandaguit, secretary general of the Kalumbay lumad group in Northern Mindanao, said they were warmly received by students the colleges and universities who listened to the issues and concerns raised by the Lumad and Moro peoples.
About 2,000 students from 42 schools in the National Capital Region met the delegates who stayed at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City.
“They stayed with us and listened to our stories,” Mandaguit said. “We can no longer keep quiet. We have to share our experiences.”
The delegates departed for Manila on Aug. 22 and returned in this city on Monday, September 25.
Started in 2012, the event called Manilakbayan, or journey to Manila, was launched to bring the struggles for land, environment and human rights of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao to the broader public.
Mandaguit said the various IP groups in Northern Mindanao, especially in Bukidnon, have suffered from forms of abuses and injustices, including the deaths of tribal members and leaders allegedly by armed paramilitary groups.
He said they were able to sit with Department of Education (DepEd) secretary Leonor Briones to discuss reports of military presence in lumad communities and schools.
Briones said she will look into these allegations as she insisted that soldiers are not allowed to camp out in IP campuses and villages.
Just recently, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools in light of allegations that IP communities are supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Mandaguit said the government should respect the culture of the lumad peoples.
He added the implementation of the martial law has even worsened the IPs’ plight as they will find it hard to transport and sell their goods in towns since they many of them don’t have identification cards.
Datu Jomorito Goaynon, Kalumbay regional chairman, said although Malacañang and national government agencies, except for DepEd and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), refused to face them, the Lakbayan was a success in terms of raising awareness among the different sectors in Manila.
For her part, Sittie Rahma, member of Tindeg Ranao and Manilabayan 2017 delegate, said they are calling on the Duterte government to stop the war in Marawi City and the implementation of martial law in Mindanao. (davaotoday.com)