LEFTIST lawmakers on Wednesday questioned Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman’s motive for suggesting that some 4,000 members of tribal communities displaced by the military’s counter-insurgency campaign be relocated and be given new homes, instead of working for their peaceful return to their ancestral lands.
“We see only two reasons why… Soliman is offering relocation to the lumad,” said Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said. “One is that Soliman is in cahoots with the mining and logging interests that seek to plunder ancestral lands once the lumad have been driven away and there are kickbacks to be gained in the building of lumad relocation shelters.”
Lumad evacuees who recently met with Soliman at an evacuation center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, had rejected her relocation offer.
“In offering lumad evacuees relocation, Secretary Soliman simply refuses to understand and see the reasons behind the lumad’s displacement,” said Ilagan.
Another Gabriela lawmaker, Rep. Emmi De Jesus, said Soliman could not be trusted with yet another project to relocate displaced families.
“We all know how families displaced by Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ have been relegated to sub-human conditions in shelters facilitated no less by the DSWD,” she said.
Gabriela and other leftist groups have insisted on the immediate pullout of soldiers from lumad communities.
“They have been forced to evacuate several times and they have been victimized several times. We must heed their calls and not allow the lumad to be victimized over again,” De Jesus said.
In Camp Aguinaldo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Civil Relations Service chief Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala dismissed the pullout calls and said the soldiers were needed to protect the community from communisty rebels.
Kakilala said the New People’s Army has been “radicalizing” lumad children with communist teachings by infiltrating into the lumad schools built by non-government organizations.
“The NPA should leave all lumad communities and they should stop making these communities their own laboratories of senseless protracted war. They should stop arming the lumad to wage a bloody war with them against the government,” he said.
But Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said he will move for the shelving of the budget of the Department of National Defense, along with the budget of the AFP, due to the defense agency’s “unapologetic and recalcitrant” stance over the issue of campus militarization and the killing of lumad.
“One of the major issues now hounding our nation is the militarization of schools and communities, most prevalent in the ancestral land of the lumad. A major component of this issue is the intensifying militarization of lumad schools and communities,” Ridon said.
The executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Emerico Samarca, was found with his throat slit inside one of his classrooms on Sept. 1. On the same day, armed men executed lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo in front of their community.
“We simply cannot pass the budget of an agency that perpetrates heinous killings of national minorities without batting an eyelash. The AFP’s misplaced bravado will not work its charm in the House of Representatives,” Ridon said.
He accused the military of whitewashing the deaths.
Earlier, protestant bishops accused the Aquino administration of putting gold, nickel and copper ahead of people’s lives in Mindanao.
In a joint statement, the bishops said the Manobos were getting sick in the evacuation and refugee centers since they were not accustomed to “city life.”
Bishops Deogracias Iniguez, Felixberto Calang and Elmer Bolocon, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, demanded that President Aquino pull out the military and paramilitary groups from the mountains and allow the Manobos to return home and leave them in peace.
The bishops were officials of the UCCP’s Ecumenical Bishops Forum on the Militarization of Lumad Communities.
“Why are they being driven out of their ancestral lands? The reason is money. Big foreign mining corporations want to exploit the resources of the lands known for their richness in gold, nickel and copper,” the bishops said.
The military, they said, wanted to make sure that that happens.