DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Bayan Muna party-list Representative Eufemia Cullamat said members of the Mindanao Indigenous People’s Council of Elders (MIPCEL) and the military will not succeed in their “campaign to vilify Lumad groups” who continue to fight for self-determination and protect their ancestral lands.
She made the reaction against MIPCEL which tagged Lumad schools in Mindanao and progressive organizations supporting the struggle of the Indigenous People as “terrorists” during the group’s speaking tour in different cities in the USA last month. MIPCEL has even called for the shutdown of the schools under Salugpongan.
“There are several groups of Lumads that were created by the military and government to go against their own people who strongly opposed the destruction of the environment. But they have failed in silencing us,” Cullamat told Davao Today in an interview during the Salugpongan Council general assembly over the weekend.
Salugpongan, she said, is only defending their ancestral lands – the Pantaron Range – as they consider it their lives. The group, she added, remained to have the support of different organizations, including the international community, “for the people have understood the importance of the Lumad struggle.”
Cullamat, a member of the Manobo Tribe in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, also struggled and defended the Andap Valley Complex which has been the target of huge mining companies.
Meanwhile, the Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao (Pasaka) in a statement, condemned the “lies being peddled” by MIPCEL.
The group claimed that MIPCEL and the Mindanao Indigenous People Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD), “collaborated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to vilify and attack the genuine struggle of the Lumad for self-determination.”
According to Pasaka, Joel Unad, leader of MIPCEL, travelled with the military across the Lumad tribes in Mindanao “to entice Lumad leaders to file ancestral domain claims and to recruit them into joining paramilitary Lumad groups in the guise of self-defense.”
The group said Unad’s and the military’s agenda is “to pave the way” for the large-scale mining companies and plantations that are “drooling in the resource-rich ancestral domains where our schools and community thrived.”
By doing so, Pasaka said, tribal leaders under MIPCEL and MIPCPD have abandoned the struggles of the Indigenous People by aligning themselves with the military, and by carrying out its campaign dubbed Oplan Kapanatagan.
“(This) only leads to destroying another collective nation of Lumad people fighting for self-determination and protecting the very scarce remaining natural resources of the Philippines,” Pasaka said. (davaotoday.com)