Guingona: Lumad being decimated
SENATOR Teofisto Guingona III on Monday bewailed the killings of lumad in Mindanao, saying that paramilitary forces are decimating helpless indigenous people all over the region, and not just in Surigao del Sur.
Guingona, and administration ally, pointed out that recent lumad killings have been documented in Davao del Norte, Cotabato, Bukidnon, and Surigao, which are far from each other.
“Lumad numbers are dwindling. It will be a national tragedy to lose them,” warned Guingona, chairman of the Senate committee on peace, unification, and reconciliation and a member of the justice committee.
Guingona said he would conduct on-site Senate investigations on Oct. 1 in Tandag town, Surigao del Sur, where lumad have sought refuge to escape the violence in their village.
He will be joined by Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and Aquilino Pimentel.
The Aquino administration has played down the lumad killings, and repeated the Armed Forces claim that the members of the tribal communities were communist rebels or sympathizers.
On Monday, a contingent of tribal leaders and survivors held a demonstration near the Palace to urged President Benigno Aquino III to stop the lumad killings.
“Martial law is now in effect in our communities, where the armed forces terrorized the lumad and extrajudicial killings are carried out with impunity by state sponsored paramilitary groups,” one tribal leader said, before others took turns recounting the abuses and atrocities committed by the military and paramilitary groups.
At least 20 lumad tribal leaders came to Manila from Mindanao to ask the President to stop the killings.
In the Senate, Guingona also urged his colleagues to pass Senate Bill 2368, which makes it a crime to forcibly displace tribal communities.
Speaking at a forum last week, Guingona was joined by a 16-year-old survivor of a massacre last month in Bukidnon, which is 1,327 kilometers away from Lianga, Surigao del Sur, where three lumad leaders were executed in front of gathered residents.
The survivor, Jan-Jan (not his real name) related that his family was preparing corn for breakfast when his father suddenly fell dead from a burst of gunfire.
The gunmen then ordered the rest of his family to show themselves, then mowed them down as they stood with their hands up.
“The violence against lumad is widespread and it’s important for the government to restore law and order,” Guingona said.
On Tuesday, tribal leaders will hold a news conference at Vinzons Hall of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to challenge the President to a face off on the lumad killings.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said the lumad contingent from Mindanao consisted of witnesses and survivors of the ongoing militarization of their communities.
Among them are relatives of massacre victims in Surigao and Bukidnon who have sought the help of human rights groups here and abroad, he said.
“The Aquino regime likes to tout itself as the opposite of the Marcos regime but rights victims are saying otherwise,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairperson Carol Araullo.
“There are now more than 500 political prisoners under Aquino, more than the political prisoners under the Arroyo regime,” Araullo said.
“It seems that it is the Aquino government that has not learned any of the lessons of the past as it continues to repeat the crimes of the dictator,” Araullo said.
“Militarization, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, political prisoners and overall impunity remain today under a so-called democratic regime,” she added.
The tribal leaders marched with cause-oriented groups to mark the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
In remembering the atrocities of the Marcos dictatorship, the groups also called attention to what they described as the continuing legacy martial rule under the Aquino administration, Reyes said.
Reyes said Bayan assembled at the Plaza Miranda before marching to the Mendiola Bridge, near Malacanang.
Much like the US-backed Martial Law regime, Reyes said, the current US-sponsored counter-insurgency drive called Oplan Bayanihan is being blamed for the mounting human rights violations under this regime.
“The lumad killings and militarization under Bayanihan show us that the Martial Law mindset remains especially within the AFP,” Reyes said.
In Cagayan de Oro City, hundreds of protesters trooped to the regional headquarters of the Commission on Human Rights to press the agency to press for action on their complaints of human rights violations by the military.
Karapatan secretary-general for Northern Mindanao, Christopher Ablon, said the persistent murder of ordinary civilians was evocative of the Martial Law period, citing the killing of four civilians in Bugna, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on March 29, and five members of the Manobo tribe on Aug. 15. With Lance Baconguis