DAVAO CITY, Philippines — “Martial law extension is killing martial law victims twice.”
This is how the tribal group PASAKA described the Supreme Court approval of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“It is like rubbing salt to our wounds,” said Manobo leader Datu Isidro Indao of Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (TIKULPA) from Bukidnon on the High Court’s decision.
Lumad, or tribal groups, from Mindanao traveled to Manila and trooped to the Supreme Court on Thursday, February 8 to condemn the High Court’s decision citing numerous cases of human rights abuses was recorded during the implementation of the martial rule since May last year.
“When Martial Law was declared, there were 18 incidents of aerial strikes by the military that hit Lumad communities, while 68 Lumad leaders were victims of extrajudicial killings,” PASAKA secretary general Jong Monzon said.
While “around 7,000 Lumad families have been displaced due to military operations,” he added.
Monzon also noted that 44 Lumad schools in Mindanao were “forcibly closed due to intimidation by soldiers and paramilitary.”
On January 29, Lumad schools Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV) and Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPS) suspended their classes after 758 individuals fled their homes in Lianga, Surigao del Sur due to the military presence in the area.
Monzon reported that civilians were “forced to surrender” as New People’s Army (NPA).
“The AFP reported that there are around 2,000 NPA surrenderees, but they are actually Lumads and farmers coerced to pose with rifles or sign papers, so that they can report their so-called accomplishments,” said Monzon.
On Wednesday, February 7, some 215 of 683 members of the New People’s Army who had surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-Eastmincon) met with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacanang Palace.
Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesman of the AFP-EastMinCom said in a statement that they were brought to Manila from Davao via two Philippine Air Force C-130 aircrafts on Tuesday for a 3-day tour at the palace and historical sites like Intramuros and Luneta Park as promised by President Duterte.
The group claimed that some surrenderees are leaders of paramilitary groups claiming to be NPAs like the case of Alde “Butsoy” Salusad.
On August 2017, Salusad was seen in a video posted on Facebook where he was presented as a member of the NPA.
In the video, Salusad asked for President Duterte to grant him “freedom” and be given a chance to serve in the Army.
“Salusad is actually a leader of NIPAR (New Indigenous Peoples Army Reform) who is also suspect in the killing of Matigsalug anti-mining leader Jimmy Liguyon,” said Monzon.
Where will the Lumad and peasants go?
The Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples and Peasants (Sagipp), a group of peace advocates, slammed the SC decision and warned that military concentration in Mindanao will cause massive evacuation of civilian communities.
“But beyond the Constitutionality, we raise the question where will the Lumad and peasants go?,” Saggip vice chairperson Rev. Daniel Palicte said in a statement.
Palicte urged the government to lift martial rule and pull-out military troops from civilian communities, citing this would harm the livelihood of these sectors.
“Sagipp believes that the lifeblood of any country is in the protection of its resources and its people who provide us with food, sustenance and cultural identity. The country, our region needs food more than profits and bombs,” Palicte added. (davaotoday.com)