Mindanao peasants, IPs in Manila, call to stop killings and large-scale mining

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PAHUBAY, a Banwaon ritual that literally means to ‘soften the heart’ was performed by Banwaon Datu and Bae at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo as they appealed to the people of Metro Manila, especially those from Mindanao, to support their call for justice and to stop extrajudicial killings and forced evacuation of peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao, due to continuous military operation and incursion of large-scale destructive mining in their lands.

More than 70 Manilakbayan delegates from Mindanao were greeted in a salubong by members of people’s organizations, multi-sectoral and Church groups led by Karapatan, Ecu-Voice and Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).

The delegation includes the Capion family, whose relatives Juvy Capion and her two children were massacred on October 18 in Tampakan, South Cotabato. They were joined in by widows of five slain leaders of indigenous people (IP) who died fighting for their land rights against incursions of mining corporations, agri-business corporations and megadams in their ancestral domain.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said “we warmly welcome our brothers and sisters from Mindanao who intend to bring the voices of the Mindanao peasants and indigenous peoples to Manila, specifically for Pres. Aquino to hear clearly that they have had enough of bombings, of forced evacuation, of killings and mining operations in our land. Aquino should stop the killings and those responsible for these atrocities should be punished. “

Karapatan however expressed disgust over the news that greeted the Mindanaoans – that of Aquino’s promotion of ranking military officers responsible for human rights violations such as Brigadier General Eduardo Año. Año, who was recently promoted by Aquino as the new chief of the AFP’s Intelligence Service, is facing criminal charges on the abduction and disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos and is alleged to have taken the lead role in the military’s operations in Quezon province.

“What a way to start the week of commemoration of human rights! What a way to welcome the farmers and indigenous peoples who have come all the way from Mindanao! This is an expression of a policy statement and of the Aquino-style impunity – to reward torturers, abductors, rights violators with ranks and positions and to turn the other way when he is put to task for the killings and rights abuses under his administration. By promoting Brig. Gen. Ano as ISAFP chief, Aquino practically absolves him of his responsibility in the abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos and of his role in terrorizing the communities in Quezon province. This will embolden the military because the violators are promoted, instead of being punished and made accountable for rights abuses,” Palabay said.

The spate of killings of indigenous peoples is among the concerns that will be raised by the Manilakbayan delegation when they meet with Mindanao legislators, Church and government officials, students from various colleges, members of the diplomatic missions and in several protest actions that are lined up as part of Manilakbayan’s “bringing Mindanao peoples’ voices from the margins to the center.” Manilakbayan is spearheaded by Panalipdan-Mindanao and Kalumaran, the island-wide alliance of indigenous tribes in Mindanao.

Manilakbayan also aims to get the public’s attention on their “Save our schools” campaign. “The literacy schools are initiated by people’s organizations, with the help of people like Fr. Pops Tentorio, PIME, who was killed by the AFP’s paramilitary group more than a year ago. But the military is not satisfied with bombing the communities and killing people. They also use schools as camps, or build detachments on school grounds. The government did not only fail to help them, but it is also destroying what they have established,” added Palabay.

The salubong of Manilakbayan’s delegation opens the activities for the series of activities that leads to December 10, the annual commemoration of the International Human Rights Day. The salubong at Plaza Miranda was preceded by a concelebrated mass of 12 priests, with Most Rev. Bp. Edgardo Juanich, Apostolic Vicar of the Vicariate of Palawan, as main celebrant.

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