THE BRUTAL killings of Lumad leaders allegedly by the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani as well as by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao seem not to have generated any public outrage, much less firm government response to check them and prevent similar incidents from happening.

In an article published by the Varsitarian last Nov. 7, Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the Kusog sa Katauhang Lumad sa Mindanao, said the killings started when the Lumad, as the indigenous cultural communities are collectively known, resisted mining operations and expansions of agricultural plantations in the northeast area of Mindanao.

Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 ensures the protection and the promotion of the rights of indigenous cultural communities, stating that “the State shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities or indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well-being and shall recognize the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain.”

With this, the Lumad are endowed the right to be protected in their ancestral domain.

But the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has allowed foreign companies to conduct mining operations in the country, enabling them to acquire lands, many of them ancestral domain of the Lumad, for the commercial mining of gold, nickel and copper.

Evidently mining interests have co-opted the paramilitary and even the NPA to wrest the ancestral domain away from the Lumad. It is well-known that that the NPA charges “revolutionary tax” from any commercial interest in territories it claims to control; this makes the NPA a mercenary of capitalism, which is not surprising since China is socialist only in name; it’s actually capitalist in economic practice and authoritarian and even fascist in political practice.

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But is the Philippine government doing its part in implementing the law to protect indigenous communities supposedly crafted by its own legislators? Alas the state itself is mercenary to mining interests. At the least it has chosen to implement more the mining law rather than the indigenous rights law.

Thus, despite the efforts of various human rights groups, religious organizations, and even the Catholic Church to help the Lumad, Lumad killings continue unabated.

In a conference held by the Lumad datus in 2008, it was revealed that the NPA killed 357 Lumad from 1998 to 2008. Last September, three datus and several other Lumad were killed. The killings have uprooted the Lumad communities who have fled to Manila to escape harassment and violence.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle visited the Lumad camp in Liwasang Bonifacio last November 11 to show his support for the indigenous people. The Lumad started to camp out in several places in Manila last November 2 to send a message to the government they want to secure their ancestral lands.

Some Lumad have asked UST and other universities for support. Last November 4, UST organized a forum for the Lumad, which became an avenue for the cultural communities to voice out their sentiments. UST’s Lumad Advocacy Photo Exhibit is also being displayed until Dec. 8 along the covered walk near the Quadricentennial Pavilion. All this should raise public awareness of how the Philippine state, paramilitary groups, and the NPA’s have wittingly or unwittingly been conducting what amounts to an ethnic cleansing of our Lumad brothers. May God have mercy on them.

Mula kay Mideo Cruz


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