Helicopters flying over our communities; military checkpoints making it difficult to enter or leave our very own ancestral lands; deployment of an increasing number of military troops who search, harass, threaten and accuse us of being NPAs or their supporters. This has become our life since January 10 this year. Our livelihoods have been greatly disrupted along with the education of our children.
Just a week after the new year, military troops from the 75th IB, 36th IB and 16th Special Forces of Philippine Army, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were deployed in the mountain areas of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, Tago and San Miguel in Surigao del Sur. Since then, our lives were disturbed affecting our farming and livelihood.
On January 16, more or less 20 military men interrogated our fellow Lumad for more than two hours. Without permission, they read the texts on his cellphone and took the SIM card. They told him to surrender and to yield fire arms for 50,000 cash reward and be enlisted as a soldier and receive a monthly salary of 30,000.00. They got his name and threaten him that if anything happens to them, they will go back for him.
On January 26, 15 soldiers threatened a husband and wife who were about to harvest corn in their farm. The former ordered the latter to show their IDs and being unable to do so, they took their pictures using a cellphone camera. The soldiers also threatened to go back for them if there will be a fire fight. On that same day, three soldiers pointed their guns at another resident who was in his farm to check on his wild pig trap. Another group of soldiers also blocked another resident travelling on his motorcycle. They asked for his ID and when they knew he was from Lianga, they said “People from Lianga are NPAs.” They then accused him of being an NPA supporter because according to them only NPA supporters are allowed to farm.
There are many more experiences such as these which disrupted our livelihood as we are now afraid to go to our farms, to get what our traps caught and harvest wild abaca in the forest, because the military may be encamped in our farms.
We do not want to be dislocated again. We are still on the process of rebuilding our livelihood after a year of evacuation in Tandag City last September 2015 followed by evacuations in July and November 2017 in Km.9, Brgy. Diatagon, because of massive operations. Everyday we are bothered by the presence of the military.
From the time of our ancestors, we the Lumad of these areas, practiced our traditions with guidance from our elders. We continued to strive to develop these traditions, our livelihoods, schools and communities. We banded together in order to hasten our economic, political and cultural development with help from enlightened sectors from churches, non-government organizations and agencies of the local government units and the government who have been sincerely working for the welfare of the Lumad people. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
But now, our lives, livelihoods, the future of our children are again being threatened by intensified military operations.
We strongly condemn these actions. We cannot help but be afraid at times such as these, because of what we went through in September 1, 2015, when we witnessed the killing of our chairperson, datu and teacher – which until now, no justice has been served. We understand that the operations are meant to destroy our organization and our established alternative schools to facilitate the entry of mining in our ancestral lands.
We firmly commit ourselves in defending our ancestral lands dripped with the blood of our ancestors. We will strengthen our unity in defending our ancestral lands and advance and realize our right to self-determination.
Lift Martial Law in Mindanao!
Withdraw the military from the countryside!
Fight the US-Duterte regime’s Fascism!
Defend ancestral lands!
Uphold the right to self-determination!
Reference: Imelda Belandres, chairperson
MAPASU Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod
(Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation)