Lawmakers alarmed over 14 Lumad defenders killed in Bukidnon this year

Aug. 26, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Bayan Muna Party-list condemned the killing of another Lumad activist in Bukidnon, bringing the count of killings in this province to 14 this year alone.

Bai Leah Tumbalang, a member of Kaugalingong Sistema Igpapasindog Tu Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO) and organizer of Bayan Muna in her town in San Fernando during the last election, was shot dead by suspected elements of the military in Valencia, Bukidnon on August 23.

Witnesses said Tumbalang was shot by motorcycle riding gunman in the forehead which killed her instantly.

“This dastardly act is highly condemnable, happening as a result of the continuing Martial law in Mindanao,” said House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate in a statement.

The murder of Tumbalang is linked to her group’s strong opposition against mining interests in their ancestral domain.

Zarate blamed the military which has red-tagged activists including Tumbalang.

“Human rights activists in the province suspected that elements of the army’s 88th Infantry Battalion or their agents are responsible for the killing, as she was vilified and red-tagged before for her staunch defender of their ancestral lands,” Zarate said.

“This madness; this cowardly killing of our hapless, innocent Lumad fighting only for their ancestral lands and their survival must stop!” the Davao-based lawmaker said.

Bayan Muna 3rd Representative Eufemia Cullamat, a Surigao Manobo, said these killings must push the Lumad more to defend for their rights, especially to their ancestral lands.

“Mindanao has been under martial law for three years already. Now, they[State] want it to become more brazen by the repressive policies they’re pushing,” Cullamat said.

“This will only deprive the people, critics, legal organizations, and human rights defenders to their basic rights. It wants to oppress and control the lives of the citizens, but we will not allow it,” the Manobo leader added.

Human rights group Karapatan said the spate of killings in Bukidnon is linked to the state’s “repressive policies” such as Martial Law in Mindanao and the counter insurgency campaign, Oplan Kapanatagan.

Martial Law, declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, is in effect until the end of this year.

“Tumbalang was clearly targeted for her active involvement in various community campaigns and struggles. We live at a time when any form of resistance &mdash even to defend one’s ancestral domain and demand a clean and safe environment — will earn the ire of this regime. We grieve the loss of another environmental defender, a mother, and a leader who stood for future generations,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Palabay added: “Martial law remains a tool in aggravating the violations directed and funded by counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan. Typical of fascist regimes, this government sees defense of our democratic rights, of our collective right to a healthy environment and of our cultural, social and economic rights as threats, immediately responding with repression and human rights violations.” (

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