“STOP LUMAD KILLINGS!” clamored indigenous groups and people’s organizations during a mobilization to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Martial Law declaration in the Philippines last 21 September 2015.
Hundreds of activists and supporters converged to march from Plaza Miranda to the iconic street of Mendiola to directly demand the Aquino government to end political repression in the country.
After the march, indigenous peoples and progressive group leaders spoke against the continuing militarization in Mindanao. They highlighted the political persecution enfolding the country and the recent killing of three Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur by paramilitary groups linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last September 1.
Bai Josephine Pagalan, spokesperson of Kasalo Caraga (Organization of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in Caraga), accused the government of arming their Lumad brethren to fight with the AFP and commit grave offenses against other Lumads. She also asserted that they would continue to fight for their rights. “Ang aming ipinaglalaban sa aming lupa ay ang karapatan namin sa aming lupang ninuno, karapatan naming umunlad ang aming tahanan, [at ang] karapatan naming makamit ang edukasyon sa mga Lumad (We are fighting for our ancestral lands, our right to development, and our right to education),” she said.
Also present in the mass action was Gideon Galicia Jr., a teacher from the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), who recalled the gruesome murder of ALCADEV executive director Emerito “Emok” Samarca, Dionel “Onel” Campos, chairperson of MAPASU (Continuing Struggle for the Next Generation) Lumad organization, and his cousin Aurello “Bello” Sinzo.
In his speech, Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes called the Aquino government’s “Oplan Bayanihan” counterinsurgency program as another form of Martial Law. He also stressed how the AFP is using the program as a means to hold warrantless arrests, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances by using trumped-up criminal charges against civilians in heavily militarized areas.
Attacks on human rights
Based on data gathered by human rights group KARAPATAN, 68 indigenous peoples have been slain under the Aquino administration, 58 of them were Lumads. Since the start of the Aquino regime, the number of documented extrajudicial killings reached 279. The total number of political prisoners in the Philippines reached 537.
Indigenous group KATRIBU also documented at least 84 cases of attacks on 57 indigenous community schools since June 2010. Attacks in the forms of threats, encampments, vilification, harassment, intimidation, and divestment and destruction of properties caused the forced evacuation of Lumad communities.
Similar human rights violations are also happening in many parts of the world. Cases of sexual violence, forced disappearances, public executions, torture, civilians starved to death, and violent dispersals of peaceful assemblies are persistently being felt by peoples all over the world. These cases of state-sponsored violence are all meant to paralyze mass organizations and social movements actively challenging the current economic and political order. The need for international solidarity thus becomes ever more important in holding governments accountable and in highlighting the struggle and resistance of the oppressed and the marginalised.
A festival for people’s struggles
As the world bears witness to the impacts of the ever-worsening crisis on human rights and people’s lives, migrants, workers, peasants, women, indigenous peoples, artists and cultural workers, youth and many other sectors and communities from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and North America are invited to gather in solidarity to express their support for people’s struggle for rights and genuine system change.
This coming 17 November 2015 hundreds of participants from around the globe will converge in Manila for the International Festival for People’s Rights and Struggles (IFPRS). This will be the third gathering of people’s movements since it started in 2011 where it offered opportunities for individuals, mass movements and progressive institutions to explore solutions, alternatives and address people’s struggles around the world.
Several conferences and forums were highlighted in the previous IFPRS events emphasizing the role of the masses in shaping the future and possible alternatives for system change. The past events also featured prominent speakers from various fields who discussed key social issues happening around the world, including the role of capitalist powers and the global economic crisis, like Tricontinental Centre (CETRI) founder Prof. Francois Houtart, Palestinian National Council member Leila Khaled, and Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) founder and director Prof. Michel Chossudovsky.
This year, the event will continue to provide a learning and networking space for people’s organizations, civil society organizations, communities and sectors to share and gain knowledge about current and longstanding issues to people’s individual and collective rights. A wide range of activities will be featured including simultaneous forums, workshops, strategy sessions, film showings and exhibits.
IFPRS 2015 hopes to continue the “festival of the oppressed”, a legacy brought by previous IFPRS events that conveyed a powerful message to everyone: “We may be different in colour, but our hearts and blood are the same. We are one in the struggle for a better world.”
Initial list of IFPRS co-organizers include: Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN), Ban the Bases, Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), GABRIELA, Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), International Conference on Progressive Culture (ICPC), International Migrants Alliance (IMA), International Women’s Alliance (IWA), People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Philippine Solidarity and Exchange Tours (PSET), RESIST, and Salinlahi.
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