By Lakbay Lumad USA
Los Angeles, California – Indigenous peoples (IP) from the Philippines are on a six-week speaking tour in the United States of America to tell their stories. The Lakbay Lumad USA is a continuation of the Mindanao’s indigenous peoples’ journey for peace with justice. It aims to put forward their calls to stop the attacks against Lumad schools, communities, and people; to demand for food and justice; gather support for the people’s resistance against militarization and plunder in Mindanao; and to call to stop US military aid to the Philippines.
Lakbay Lumad USA started in Washington DC on April 15 to lobby before congressional offices and draw the support of the country’s ecumenical leaders. The tour is now in California and will end in New York for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, after sweeping 7 US cities with forums and protest actions.
Among the contingent are Lumad leaders who are also victims of and witnesses to the atrocities in Mindanao. They are also leaders of the Kusog ng Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (KALUMARAN Mindanao-wide Lumad Organization), Kahugpongan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (KASALO Lumad Organization in Caraga) and the Pasakkaday Salugpongan Kalimudday (PASAKA Confederation of Lumad in Southern Mindanao). With the delegation is Igorot Secretary General of the Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU National Alliance of indigenous peoples in the Philippines), as well as IP rights’ advocates under the Salugpongan International.
“We bring with us our dreadful experiences of killings, militarization, and forced evacuation not just in the Caraga region where I came from, but of the people of Mindanao who have become targets of the Aquino regime’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,”” said KASALO spokesperson Josephine Pagalan, a witness to the September 1, 2015 Lianga Massacre.
According to KATRIBU, at least 89 indigenous peoples have been killed by the state armed forces since July 2010. Of the 89 victims of extra-judicial killings, 74 are Lumad leaders, women and children.
“We have come this far from our mountain homes because of hunger, intense repression, and continuing impunity, especially under the Aquino Government. Recently, the president himself absolved the accountability of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Kidapawan carnage and blames us for the violent dispersal. Aquino belittles our daily issue of hunger and poverty as mere propaganda and instigated by a few, while his government performs the greatest cover-up of all,” lamented Bai Norma Capuyan, a survivor of the April 1 Kidapawan bloody dispersal. Capuyan, a Tagabawa, and chairperson of the BAI-KALUMARAN, a Mindanao-wide Lumad women’s network, and vice chairperson of KALUMARAN.
The lumad leaders said the Aquino government, despite its pretensions, is no different from the previous regimes. “Behind the atrocities are Aquino’s economic policies which serve well the transnational and multi-national corporations, the landlords, and corrupt bureaucrats. They take our lands away from us, deprive us of our resources and violate our rights, and push us to hunger and inhumane conditions. Worse, our just and legitimate struggles are criminalized. We are forced to leave our ancestral lands, killed, or falsely charged in courts,” said Kerlan Fanagel, spokesperson of the Lakbay Lumad USA. Fanagel, a Blaan, is chairperson of PASAKA.
“We are here to call for the support of our kababayan and the American people. We may be in fear but we are more furious with the injustices going on in our lands. We hope for your support, those of you who believe in democracy and justice. The killings of the Lumad must end,” concluded Matanem Monico Cayog, a Bagobo leader and KALUMARAN chairperson. ###