MANILA , Philippines – The House of Representatives Makabayan opposition bloc has sought a congressional inquiry into the reported human rights violations committed against the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Lianga, Surigao del Sur that led to their evacuation anew.
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago initiated the filing of House Resolution 2014 on Wednesday along with ACT-Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.
In filing the resolution, the progressive lawmakers said it is the duty of the lower chamber to provide urgent measures to prevent such abuses against the Filipino people, especially the marginalized indigenous peoples.
On Monday, July 16, some 328 families, or 1,607 indigenous people from the 11 communities of Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga town and three communities of Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin town in Surigao del Sur, still traumatized by the death of their leaders in 2015, fled their homes (bakwit) and sought temporary shelter at a 16 kilometer-far gymnasium.
This was because of the heavy presence and abuses of soldiers in the area and after a month of military encampment in their communities, the resolution indicated.
“Several attacks have been made against indigenous peoples. They have experienced threats, harassments, intimidation, forcible closure of schools, bombings, destruction of properties, enforced disappearance, torture, killings, etc. All of these were perpetrated to force them out of their lands and to make way for the entry of large businesses,” Elago said.
In the resolution, the solons cited human rights group Karapatan’s statement that 100 soldiers from the 75th Infantry Battalion (IB) have been encamping at the community for 36 days since June 14. This was after the military imposed the construction of their military detachment in the community of Simowao without any consultation from the Lumad.
As of 2016, 11 coal mining contracts have been awarded to coal mining companies to explore and five contracts to operate in the ancestral lands, without the knowledge of the Lumad, according to Elago.
Benguet Corp., Great Wall Mining, and Abacus Coal are set to operate, and the soldiers are in the area to give protection to investors, she added.
“The actions of the military, who are sworn to serve and protect the people, should be condemned at the utmost degree, and denounced as it endangers the lives of civilians, and violates their social, political, and economic rights as well as rights being indigenous peoples,” Elago further stressed.
Lamenting how the Duterte administration has “brought nothing but suffering to our IPs,” Elago said all his words and actions have resulted in the further oppression and discrimination against IPs.
“To add insult to injury, the AFP has even been recruiting Lumads to become members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU), offering themvery little salary. The government and its reactionary forces are exploiting the poverty of IPs to manipulate them and create a condition wherein Lumads will fight their fellow Lumads, a divide, and rule tactic,” she added.
But Elago asserted that the indigenous peoples would fight back and they would not be silenced “as their people continue to die at the bloody hands of the government.”
“They will continue to organize and educate themselves and others about their history. We, the youth, are truly inspired by our IPs– the image of the people willing to fight and die for their land, their culture, and their next generation serve as an ember that continues to burn in our hearts,” the youth solon said.(davaotoday.com)