Cagayan de Oro City, 21 October 2015—Kins of Bugna and the Pangantucan Massacres fatalities lead the kickoff program of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015 in Northern Mindanao.
Hermenio Samia Jr—son of Pangantucan massacre victim Hermenio Samia Sr—is journeying with three other relatives from Barangay Mendis to Manila to press for justice for their five family members who were killed on August 18. “We promised to our family that we would seek justice no matter what hardships we might encounter,” Samia said. “The Manilakbayan will be just one among many journeys we are willing to take to achieve this.”
“We have for so long demanded that the Special Forces Batallion, the ‘massacre batallion’ under Col. Nasser Lidasan be held accountable,” said Kalumbay Chairperson Jomorito Goaynon. “The Pangantucan 5 had not been their first massacre. The relatives of the victims of the Bugna massacre which happened earlier this year are also here with us.
There had been a barrage of accusations coming from the military and some government institutions that the victims of the massacres, and many of the rights violations committed against indigenous communities, were members or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“Here are the peoples they have accused to be rebels,” said Goaynon. “It is very easy for the government to put our demands aside because we are far. So, here we are, once more marching towards them. And we are marching as we are in our communities, without guns but with our determination to assert our rights.”
Other members of the Northern Mindanao contingent include members of the Manobo community under the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) in Bukidnon, and the Higaonon organization Pangalasag. Both organizations are fighting against monocrop plantations in their ancestral domains.
Representatives from the communities that had been forced to evacuate because of harassments and threats they are subjected to during military operations have also joined the caravan. Individuals and organizations that advocate human rights make up the rest of the delegates.
The Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015
The Lumad communities are continuing their legitimate assertion for their right to their ancestral lands, right to self-determination, and right to practice their traditions and culture. For four years now, representatives from the Lumad communities join other sectors in a yearly caravan to the country’s capital to bring to the seat of political and economic power their issues. Dubbed ‘Manilakbayan,’ the peoples’ caravan is a series of activities that not only seek the government’s attention but also aim at raising the awareness of the rest of the country about the Lumad’s struggles.
This year’s focal call is to “Stop the Attacks on our Schools, Communities, and People! Support the people’s resistance to militarization and plunder in MindaNow!”
The 120 human rights victims and advocates from the region will be joining more than five hundred other delegates from all over Mindanao. Bigger than the previous years’ caravans, this delegation will be joined by support groups and individuals from the regions it will be passing through. The total number of participants of the caravan is expected to reach as much as 1,200 individuals by the time it reaches the National Capital Region.
The Manilakbayan 2015 will be setting up two major Kampuhan (People’s Camp Out). From October 26 to 31, the delegates will be hosted by the University of the Philippines, Diliman, a key influencer in the forming of public opinions. From November 1 to 22, they will be transferring the Kampuhan to Liwasang Bonifacio.
Manilakbayan 2015 organizing groups from the region includes Kalumbay and the Northern Mindanao chapters of Karapatan, Panalipdan Mindanao Youth and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.###
Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM
Coordinator, RMP-NMR Inc