CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY,Philippines – Various tribal groups in the region held a protest-rally against the Indigenous Peoples (IP) Mindanao Cluster Convergence Summit here on Wednesday.
Datu Jomorito Goaynon, regional chairman of the Bukidnon-based IP group Kalumbay, said they were dismayed by the failure of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to invite their group to the summit.
Kalumbay staged a brief picket rally outside the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) where the three-day summit was held since Monday.
“We were dismayed why we were not invited. We have so many issues to bring up concerning our fellow lumad that need to be addressed by the NCIP and the Duterte government,” Goaynon said.
Aside from Kalumbay, two more IP groups were not invited to the summit.
Goaynon called the summit as “fake” as it was attended by “bogus” tribal leaders upon the invitation of NCIP.
“Why are the real lumad not invited to the summit? We should be attending it so we could express the issues that have been affecting our people,” he said.
He said the NCIP must address the problems many of the tribal peoples in Mindanao are facing such as landgrabbing, militarization, displacement, among others.
“This is not a summit of and for the lumad,” he added.
Joining Kalumbay in holding the protest action were some of the evacuees who fled from a mountain village in Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental due to militarization.
The villagers have been camping out at the Provincial Capitol grounds for more than three weeks already.
Sariza Acosta, a spokesperson for the evacuees, said they will not go back to their homes until the military pulls out from their communities.
Goaynon said the summit organizers failed to address the displacement of the Higaonon tribes living in Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong.
“The plight of the people in Lagonglong is a real problem experienced by legitimate IPs. I challenge the NCIP to help them so they could return home,” he added.
The activity was also off-limits to the media. On Wednesday morning, journalists from various media outfits were barred from entering inside the summit venue at the USTP gymnasium.
Gerry Gorit, a correspondent for a national daily, said he and a few reporters were not allowed to cover the summit.
“An organizer who positioned himself outside the gymnasium gate told us that the media is not allowed to cover,” Gorit said.
Pamela Jay Orias, Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro reporter, said the organizers did not offer any explanation to the journalists why they were refused entry into the gymnasium.
“They just said it [non-entry of reporters] was on orders of Sec. Evasco,” Orias said, referring to the Secretary of the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco Jr.
According to the NCIP on its Facebook page, the summit was organized by Evasco in partnership with the agency, and was held to campaign for the “improvement of the quality of life of Indigenous Peoples (IP)/Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) in the country.”
City Mayor Oscar Moreno said the summit is an important initiative so that all sectors of society could participate in nation-building.
“If we want Mindanao to level up, we can’t do that on staggered basis. Dapat walang iwanan, dapat sabay tanan (no one should be left behind, everyone must be on board). This summit was aimed at including all stakeholders in progress and development,” Moreno said. (davaotoday.com)