“Historically, laws were used to displace us, that is why we also need to go into mainstream politics for us to be able to advance our rights,” says Katribu partylist first nominee Beverly Longid .
BY DANILDA L. FUSILERO
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Facing threats of losing their ancestral lands to ‘development’ projects and losing their people to military operations, the indigenous people’s partylist Katribu sees all the more reason to try its bid again in Congress in the midterm elections.
“Sa kasaysayan ng mga katutubo, batas ang ginamit para kami ay mapalayas sa aming mga lupang ninuno kung kaya’t kailangan din naming pasukin ang mundo ng pulitika upang mapangalagaan ang aming mga batayang karapatan, (Historically, laws were used to displace us, that is why we also need to go into mainstream politics for us to be able to advance our rights),” Katribu partylist first nominee Beverly Longid told davaotoday.com at the annual assembly of the provincial Indigenous Peoples (IP) federation, Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC) held here Tuesday and Wednesday.
Longid, a full-blooded Igorot from the Cordillera, said that across the country, massive expansion of commercial crop plantations, social forestry, irrigation and energy generation projects, mining concessions, among others, have displaced countless indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories.
“Andyan pa ang militarisasyon at pilitang paghikayat sa mga kapwa naming tribu na sumali sa mga para-military groups na lalo pang nagpagulo sa aming hanay (There is also the problem on military operations and the forced recruitment of indigenous peoples to join para-military groups resulting to the disintegration of the tribes),” she added.
Longid said they are saddened by the fact that despite being among the most marginalized sectors, they remain unrepresented in Congress.
Pseudo-lumad partylists slimming their chances
Instead, Longid said pseudo-lumad organizations, which are actually organized by traditional politicians with the backing of big businesses and the military, proliferate.
The presence of these pseudo-lumad partylists, Longid said, only spread thin their chances of gaining representation in Congress, citing that the 2010 elections, for instance, Katribu had to contend with 14 other partylists claiming to represent the lumads.
Katribu earned more votes than the rest of them, but still failed to gather the required number votes to be able to pitch a representative in Congress.
“While it is true that some of the leaders of these pseudo-partylist groups have lumad lineage, they are after their personal intentions. In fact, these politicians hardly understand the genuine issues and aspirations of the lumads,” Katribu 3rd nominee Bai Norma Capuyan of the Manobo tribe in Cotabato.
Victims of govt’s dirty war
The indigenous peoples in the country, Capuyan said, are not just robbed of their rights to their ancestral lands, they are also attacked by government’s military campaigns that see their opposition to mining and agribusiness as a nuisance.
In North Cotabato for instance, Capuyan cited the ongoing forced recruitment by military-organized lumad paramilitary group, Bagani, which is operating in the boundaries of Arakan Valley.
Father Peter Geremia, an Italian priest from PIME (Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions) scored the government for failing to stop forced recruitment by the military among the indigenous peoples.
The Bagani’s spread has caused fear among members of the Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (Tikulpa), a group supported by Geremia’s parish that is organized to defend their ancestral land from mining.
Geremia also saw his colleague missionary Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio murdered last year, according to witnesses, by members of the Bagani.
Katribu’s documentation showed that 25 lumads were killed in two years of the Aquino administration, most of them victims of the government’s counter-insurgency and so-called “development projects”.
The latest of such incident was the October 18 massacre of the family of an anti-mining Blaan leader in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Daguil Capion, who lost his pregnant wife Juvy and two children. The Philippine Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion reportedly strafed Capion’s hut early in the morning resulting to his family’s murder.
Daguil is leading a traditional defense called pangayaw against the mining activities of the Xtrata-Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
The war over resources is one reason the indigenous peoples should have a voice in government, says farmer Pedro Arnado, spokesperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. “Naa sa sulod sa mga yutang kabilin sa tribu ang sources sa tubig, minerales ug kuryente apan wala gani’y pagtagad sa ilaha ang gobyerno, mao nang kinahanglan na gyud nga naa na silay tingog sa Kongreso, (Sources of water, electricity and minerals are found within the lumads’ ancestral domain and yet you have a government that is indifferent towards them. It is about time that they have a voice in Congress),” Arnado said.
Capuyan agrees. “Neglected and undersieged we can’t wait any longer. The need to have true representation in Congress is now needed more than ever.”
The estimated population of indigenous peoples in the country is pegged at 9.1 million, distributed to more than 40 ethno-linguistic groups, the bulk of these tribes are found in Luzon and Mindanao. (Danilda L. Fusilero, davaotoday.com)