The Manobo People’s Exodus is a Continuing Struggle for Justice & Peace and the Quest for Land Rights and Self – Determination
Urgent Appeal of PASAKA (Federation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao)
On April 2, in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte, after a series of aerial bombings and intense militarization of civilian communities, while thousand Manobo lumads (indigenous peoples) were fleeing the wrath and violence of the military’s guns and bombs, 12 – day – old Biboy Manabay passed away.
Biboy died of pulmonary aspiration, secondary to dehydration as the villagers of Sitio Laslasakan, together with more than a thousand evacuees from other interior villages, started their exodus for sanctuary.
After a seven (7) hour trek from his home in Laslasakan, without any food and water, under the glaring heat of the sun, Biboy’s fragile health did not make it. He passed away and was buried in Sitio Igang, halfway through the evacuation site.
Biboy is just one of the countless and faceless Manobo lumads who have died during the decade – long conflict besetting this ancestral home of the valiant Manobo tribe.
Though Biboy ‘s death is indeed one too many, such is the sad reality of the mineral – rich and conflict ridden town of Talaingod , where every Manobo family have experienced one to two deaths of a young child or woman due to intermittent forcible evacuation and militarization over the last two decades, and severe poverty due to the government’s abject neglect and poverty.
Since March 3, since the start of the military operations of the combined military strength of the 68th IB, 60th IB of the 1003rd Brigade, and the 4th Special Forces under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte, the military perpetrated atrocities we have documented are appalling:
– Evacuees reached 1,353 individuals (as of April 4), 927 are in Davao City while 426 are staying in Nasilaban. Of the 927 evacuees in Davao, 515 are children, from newborn to 12 years old. The number of evacuees who are currently trapped in the interior areas are still unknown. Traditionally, to evade military atrocities, Manobos go the forests where some of them die due to starvation.
– An old woman, Obonay, was subject to sexual abuse and was used as a guide for military operations by the military.
– The military conducted aerial bombardments of civilian populated communities on March 20. The military also admitted razing some homes.
– Harassment, threat and intimidation of residents and school personnel belonging to Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center.
These perhaps are manifestations of the military’s statement: “for every 1 soldier killed by the NPA, we would kill 5 Manobo lumads.”
To turn their ire on civilians every time they would suffer casualties resulting from their counterinsurgency operations, is not a surprise.
Sadly, militarization has become a vicious cycle, a way of life for the lumads, especially for a people as defiant and as unbreakable as the Manobos of Talaingod who have been bravely defending their ancestral lands from the threats ethnocide ( defined as twin attacks of plunder and militarization) since the early 90’s.
Taking inspiration from the Manobo struggle against Alsons in the 90’s:
In the 1990s, big logging concessionaire Alcantara and Sons claimed thousands of hectares of ancestral land in Talaingod under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA). They used their own private army and the military in an attempt to clear the land of the indigenous, Manobo people. Many were killed in this attempted ethnocide. The Ata-Manobos in response though fought back. They formed the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, an organization borne of the unity of lumad communities in Talaingod to protect their ancestral domain from the logging encroachment.
The Ata-Manobos led by Datu Guibang Apoga, fought the company guards and military with their traditional weapons (spears and arrows) in exercise of a pangayaw, the lumad traditional warfare. Their historic struggle was successful and Alsons was forced to leave the area, thus preserving to date the flora and fauna of the Pantaron Range.
While Guibang and the fellow datus (chiefs) only acted in self- defense of their land and people, charges of common crimes were filed against them and they subsequently became fugitives.
More than two decades after the Pangayaw against ALSONS, the Manobo people are now faced with worst forms of attacks, undermining again their right to life, self determination, and human dignity.
Defying all basic tenets in the constitution protecting human rights and civil liberties, mocking international instruments and protocols on war, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Aquino Government are bent on crushing the vibrant history, culture, undying spirit and struggle of the Manobo people.
To all advocates of peace and social justice, let us not allow this to happen.
Let us support the demands of the Manobo people of Talaingod led by the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon people’s organization to:
1. Pull out the military troops from Talaingod. Investigate and prosecute those who have perpetrated the documented war crimes;
2. Just reparations must be made by the perpetrators for any damaged home, source and means of livelihood of the people;
3. Save Our Schools. Stop the attack on schools and children.
4. Support the following LEGAL ACTIONS of the SALUGPUNGAN TA TANU IGKANUGON and DEFEND TALAINGOD Movement by sponsoring either the legal and technical fees, sponsoring the necessary trips to make the lobbying events possible.
A. Case Filing at the Commission on Human Rights Region XI
B. Lobbying at the House of Representatives
C. Lobbying at the United Nations, either in Geneva or New York
Institutions, and NGO’s based in various countries may host lobbying engagements / audiences in the UN and other international platforms in order to bring to international attention the plight and struggle of the Manobo people.
5. Support the plight of the evacuees who are in need of food, medicines, blankets and other materials;
6. Write of letters of appeal addressed to the President of the Philippines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Dept. of Justice, House of Representatives in support of the struggle of the Manobo people. You may also write letters to the editors and hold educational discussions on the general issues of human rights and peace in the country and the need to resume the peace talks.
Photo Credit: davaotoday.com