Seeking Justice for the Indigenous Lumad in The Philippines

by Reyna Ramolete Hayashi

HUSTISYA for our three beautiful kasamas, murdered, whom I was humbled & blessed to stay with and learn from in Han-ayan, Surigao Del Sur, Mindanao in November of 2014 with Gabriela NY.

On Sept 1, 2015, “Sir Emuk” Emerito Samarca, Principal and Executive Director of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development), “Onel” Dionel Campos, indigenous Lumad leader of MAPASU, and his cousin, Bello Sinzo were tortured and murdered by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the paramilitary group they support, for organizing for the right to indigenous self-determination & defending their ancestral lands from militarization and mining.

Sending all love and power to the 2,000 kasamas, families with babies in their arms, elders on their backs, carrying the bodies of their 3 slain brothers, evacuating Han-ayan to Tandag City to expose the land grabbing, displacement, and horrific human rights abuses perpetrated by the Filipino government against their people.

On Mindanao in the southern Philippines, corporate agribusiness, logging, and mining are destroying the environment and robbing indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands and livelihoods. Multinational mines are stripping away the mountains to get at some of the largest iron, gold, nickel, and copper reserves in Asia, polluting waterways, killing crops, livestock, and people. Upon the recommendation of the World Bank, the Philippines liberalized its mining policies in the Mining Act of 1995 to attract foreign engineering and capital. The Act allows foreign corporations 100% ownership of the minerals, even though under the Constitution foreign ownership is limited to 40%. The government only taxes 2% of the value of the mined ore.

Protecting and paving the way for foreign corporations is the Philippine military, displacing residents from their lands, occupying indigenous schools (the heart of communities’ resistance), and targeting innocent civilians and community leaders. The military’s “Oplan Bayanihan” counter-insurgency program, funded by U.S. military aid, which eliminates the line between legal unarmed organizations and underground armed organizations, has resulted in horrific human rights abuses: arrests, kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial killings of civilians, leaders, organizers, and anyone critical of the government. The U.S. military gives approximately $50 million in aid annually to the Filipino military—our tax dollars are financing these human rights violations.

In Han-ayan, the community’s solidarity against corporate and military intrusions is based around their indigenous school founded by MAPASU, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (“Persevere in the Struggle for the Next Generation”), an alliance of indigenous Lumad tribes. They founded ALCADEV, the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, which teaches indigenous language, culture, and history, subsistence farming, community economic development, health, and self-governance. The school and MAPASU foster solidarity against mining companies and militarization. Because of the community’s strong resistance, mining companies have not been able to enter their ancestral lands.

Please help us with the only thing that Sir Emuk, Onel, their teachers, youth, and community asked of us. Please share their story far and wide. Please shout it from the mountain tops. Please take action. It is a tremendous privilege to be in the position we are in, to use our voices in the name of justice and not be killed.

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