Tragedy in the Philippines – Indigenous Lumad Activists Murdered by the State

by Michelle Ortuoste-Rollenas/Guest

Today, on September 4th, protests will be held outside of the Philippine embassy and various Philippine consulates  in the U.S to demand justice over the murder of three activists in the Philippines earlier this week. Activists will demand justice over the recent extra-judicial killing of Dionel Campos, Emerito Samarca and Campos’ cousin Bello Sinzo by an armed paramilitary group and the Philippine Army in the Philippines. The excuse used for these murders by the State is the same excuse used to justify so many other tragedies like this in the Philippines: they were Communists, or at the very least supporters of the NPA – the Communist New People’s Army that has for years led an insurgency against the Philippine government. The real crime of course committed by these three people was that they stood up for justice, dignity, freedom and self determination for their community. This violence directed against indigenous peoples in the Philippines is a long and complex one. And of course, this violence has deep connections with the kind of violence the US government has exported and encouraged over the last fifteen years in the so-called “War on Terror.”

Love and Rage will post a series of reports and articles, some written by people who knew the killed activists, over the next week. This is the first of those articles, written by a Filipina activist who lives in New York City. She is a member of the activist organization GABRIELA National Alliance of Women. She traveled to the Philippines on an expedition last November with other activists to meet with various social movements, organizations and communities across the Philippines. As part of her expedition, she also went to ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development), the indigenous school that was recently attacked by paramilitaries. This is her story. It is but one of many stories that is woven into the tapestry of resistance that exists within the Philippines and throughout the Filipin@ diaspora. 

ALCADEV High School in the Philippines.

ALCADEV High School in the Philippines.

During our class, many teachers sat with us and shared with us their experiences, their passions, and their reasons why they are here, at ALCADEV. Sir Lito, a graduate of both the elementary indigenous school TRIFPSS and high school ALCADEV (and wonderful and magical guitar player) was among those who gave testimony.

Sir Lito said, “I want to share knowledge to the Lumad, who are deprived of education and rights. I want to share knowledge and help the youth to enhance their education and raise dignity and face the discrimination that tries to deter them. I am here as an instrument to help. There is always a community to help and children to teach. I saw the needs that marginalized communities have and know I have the capacity to help and share compassion and will and I know that the government won’t give help.”

November 11, 2014 — notes from expo with GABRIELA NY:

(ALCADEV: the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development. It is located in Han-Ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Municipality Lianaga, Province Surigao del Sur, Region of Caraga, island of Mindanao.)

ALCADEV faces difficulties with being red tagged and labeled as an “NPA school.” At this time, paramilitary troops are circling the ALCADEV property. It is thought that scout rangers are also with them (though this is not sure). Plans have been cancelled to Kabulohan.

ALCADEV is 10 years-old. ALCADEV is a high school that focuses on indigenous culture and education. The major subjects are agriculture, science, technology, home economics, and history and values. Also included with these are farm management, animal husbandry, and organic fertilizer and pesticide making. Minor subjects are math, Filipino, and English. There is also a focus on conflict resolution. Students are also involved in making decisions on school policy and also have a representative during organizational meetings.

The existence of indigenous schools support the youth in acquiring a complete education that addresses their needs as an indigenous person. Schools in the low-lands are not sustainable for indigenous youth as it is common that they are discriminated against and stigmatized for being of the Lumad/indigenous community. Indigenous schools like ALCADEV act as a form of liberatory education in that they aide in the retracing, revitalization, reviving, and affirmation of traditional culture.

After students complete their courses at ALCADEV, they participate in a community practicum. At its end, they are expected to work in their communities. Many also become involved in different development work within the Surigao del Sur, Caraga region. Work that includes outreach projects for the schools in various sectors, like an agricultural technology training that includes the community. ALCADEV also has a satellite school in Padiay, Sibagat and while we were there, had a request for another in a Mamanwa community. An increase in indigenous schools strengthens all indigenous communities and their right to self-determination, ancestral land, and life itself, a life free from terror, death, and persecution.

The existence of ALCADEV has also resulted in an improved economic situation and food security for the MAPASU (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation, the Lumad people’s organization) communities.

Because of the successes in self-determination and sovereignty from the existence of ALCADEV, it has to face the interruption of classes due to peace and order conflicts and national calamity, the vilification and harassment of ALCADEV by government troops (continuing from 2005 to the present), and the executive board has been arrested and detained due to trumped-up/fabricated charges.

On this past Monday, September 1, the Executive Director and Principal Emerito ‘Emuk’ Samarca was murdered by paramilitary elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Chairman of MAPASU Dionel ‘Onel’ Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo were murdered on Monday September 1, in front of many community members.


Michelle Ortuoste-Rollenas is a Filipina-American activist who is a member of GABRIELA National Alliance of Women. She lives in New York City.

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