A new norm for terror is inflicted on the Lumad people who stand to defend their ancestral lands from corporate mining interests. Today, there are 680 Lumads internally displaced in Davao City having left their terrorized communities in Bukidnon, Mindanao. In Surigao del Sur, more than 3000 individuals sought refuge in a ballfield at the Provincial Sports Complex in Tandag, Surigao.
“…armed men forced everyone to go out. In front of all those gathered at the basketball court, sat my father (Dionil Campos). They began shouting– because you believe this man and refuse the mines coming here we remain poor, we could all have better lives! Drop down!– they shouted to everyone and began shooting over our heads. Then the gun was turned on to my father, and at close range he was shot in the head…” Michelle recounted the incident that happened last September 1, 2015.
“How do you grieve when the person brutally killed is your friend? A person who was by your side serving the Lumad?” Sr Stella Matutina’s voice was shaking trying to hold back her tears. She is a Benedictine nun, who dedicated her mission to serve the Lumad in Mindanao. Her friend, Emok Samarca, the director of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc.), a school for the Lumad, was shot dead on the same day.
“Go ahead and get out. I have lived my dreams. I want you to live yours.” these were the last memory of their Tatay (father) Emok, as he tried to calm the students from fear and terror seeing him held captive with the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani. Tatay Emok’s dream, according to his students, was to provide a learning center for the Lumad children. But the school where he devoted his life was the very place he was found dead, with stab wounds in his neck, and a slit across his throat.
“..and Bello…Bello was pulled to the tub. He was beaten, his arm broken, and shot.” Gary Payac, an ALCADEV teacher who was there, witnessed armed men ruthlessly beat Datu Bello Sinzo, a Manobo elder.
The Manobo who are among the 18 Lumad people in Mindanao, Philippines co-existed for hundreds of years in one of the last remaining intact rainforests of the Pantaron Mountain Range. But today, the Pantaron Mountain Range has mining concessionaires set to exploit 9000 hectares for coal mining, 2000 hectares of which is already in operation, and 6000 hectares for gold mining.
Mindanao is in the South part of the Philippines where one of the largest mineral deposits in the world can be found. The number of mining agreements and permits now stand at 131 and 80 percent of these are in ancestral domains.
Mining interests are sowing fear and violence throughout Mindanao. Witnesses and victims are pointing to the Paramilitary groups organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) whose members are recruited from the Lumad communities.
The Philippine Mining Act of 1995
On March 6, 1995, the Government of the Philippine enacted Republic Act 7942, also known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Among the many disadvantages to the Filipino people, this legislation liberalized foreign control over domestic mining operations and reduced the excise tax to 2%, the lowest is all Asia. The effect opened a flood gate inviting foreign and domestic corporate mining investment interests of which 80% are aimed at exploiting the Indigenous Peoples ancestral domain.
Despite the valiant attempts of the Indigenous People to defend their lands and with their demand that the Philippine Government respect and uphold the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) which is binding to all UN member states–the violent assault on their ancestral lands have continued.
The UNDRIP includes a protective instrument requiring that before any action can taken upon the Indigenous Peoples ancestral domain there must be a “free and prior informed consent” (FPIC) conducted. An FPIC is the right to know and decide given to the Indigenous People as a collective. In effect, the UNDRIP upholds the rights of the indigenous people over any external interest in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources on ancestral domain.
At present, the indigenous people in these regions are committed to protect the lands and have not given prior consent to the mining interests. According to the Lumad communities, it is for this reason that the state through the Armed Forces of the Philippines have developed a strategy at recruiting and training the Lumad as paramilitary dividing their communities with the intention of ensuring that the FPIC is approved by the Lumad community in favor of these mining corporations.
“This is the creation of the military. But they created a monster that they could no longer control,” Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel said. “For the past two years I have been asking the military to disband and disarm them but nothing happened,” he added.
Michelle revealed in a tearful end to her interview that the killer of her father was no stranger, but a relative, a distant Uncle. This she said will not end their struggle to defend the Pantaron Mountain Range. Her words speak of their resolve, “the struggle will continue. Defending Pantaron means defending our lives– losing Pantaron means losing our lives.”
Why am I compelled to share their story?
Because I know, that the climate fight will never win without them. The Indigenous People’s right to land and self- determination is parallel to the preservation of our ecological frontiers that are helping mitigate the impacts of climate change. They are fighting for their ancestral domains– our survival. They are fighting for their lives– our existence. What they will lose, we will lose. What they nurture, we all benefit.
They are now targets of impunity. Ruthlessly being killed simply because they are defending our forests from thousands of hectares exploitation to some of the world’s biggest mining corporations-– BHP Biliton, Nickel Asia-Sumitomo, Anglo-American , Toronto Ventures, Inc. , Red 5 Limited, Rio Tinto, and Benguet Mining Corp, and Oceana Gold
People are fighting back
The Lumad killings in the Philippines is outrageous! Mindanao is in a state of impunity. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines had made strong statements in support for the Lumad. Let us join together to end impunity and demand justice!
On October 26, 2015 hundreds of Indigenous People will march to the Philippine Capital, Manila to call for justice. For those who are outside Manila, we’ve organize a Twitter Storm from 11:00am-9pm UTC+8 to support the demands of the Lumad communities. Let us storm twitter with our call for @noynoyaquino to #StopLumadKillings. Join us!
The global economic system favoring profits more than people is breeding violence, plunder, and aggression. The struggle of the Lumad in the Philippines is similar to the different indigenous communities struggle in different parts of the world. Corporate interests inflicting injustices to communities defending their land and heritage, are inflicting the same devastation to the world feeding into the global climate crisis.
The Amazon tribes in Brazil are facing threats for standing up against fracking corporations. The same with the indigenous communities in Ecuador for resisting oil corporations. Death spreads in Peru last year when one of the tribe leaders stood up against logging corporations. Indigenous people were killed in Indonesia for going against deforestation. These struggles cross geographical borders and are happening worldwide– but people are standing up united to fight for life, land, and justice!