PASAK NU KABILIN, HAWI-ON TAD! Take Back Our Ancestral Lands!
Today, September 1, 2016, the indigenous peoples (Lumad) of Caraga, especially those who continue to struggle for the achievement of their comprehensive rights, has declared as the first commemoration of the Eydow Tu Pakigsantuya Tu Tumindok Kane't Caraga (Day of Struggle of the Indigenous Peoples of Caraga). This declaration is a recognition of the inexhaustible contribution of all Lumad that genuinely stand for the defense and protection of ancestral lands for all generations of the tribe. The history of struggle of the Lumad in Caraga is rich in lessons about life, experiences of struggle and triumph amidst many difficulties and strong anti-people current.
Today, we also remember the brutal killing of Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo and educator Emerito Samarca by the butcher paramilitary group of Calpet Egua, Marcial Belandres and Marcos Bocales which were formed, armed and protected by the fascist 402nd Infantry Brigade and 75th Infantry Battalion. Their death is a symbol of the continuing inaction, injustice and impunity of the perpetrators of extra judicial killings, violations of the right to unite in an organization firmly upholding their interest, especially the right to indigenous education pursuing a people-oriented, nationalist and scientific education for a liberated and self-reliant future for the Lumad youth.
Today is the 366th day of forcible evacuation of over 2,000 residents from 22 communities in 5 municipalities in Surigao del Sur. This is one year of enduring fight for justice and active struggle in and out of the Surigao del Sur Sports Complex in Tandag City that has earned the name Barangay Oval (Oval Village) because of the prolonged evacuation. The small area of the Sports Center has become the home of many communities; every day is a struggle for every child, pregnant woman mother, elderly, breadwinner, learner and educator who are evacuees. In the 366 days at the Sports Center, 5 died, among them 3 children. In one year, 86 mothers gave birth and 86 children started their lives as evacuees.
Within this one year the Lumad brought to the forefront the issues of the killing of Lumad leaders, violations of the right to live peacefully and freely within their ancestral land, corruption of Lumad culture to justify the dirty tactics of pitting Lumad against each other in the implementation of the military's Oplan Bayanihan, the past administration's discrimination against Lumad schools they have vilified despite its achievements that are the pride of the Lumad people. The central issue they fought against was the exploitation of natural resources, especially coal, by greedy big mining corporations who want to plunder the national patrimony in ancestral lands.
Their call for justice resounded regardless of the deaf-and-blind act of the past administration of the indifferent Noynoy Aquino. The call and struggle of the Lumad in Caraga resounded not only within our region, it reached the capital, Manila, and other places in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao through the persevering work of their organizations. Solidarity was fostered with peoples of other countries like Belgium, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, US, among others, in the search for justice against the violation of the rights of the Lumad.
The sacrifice of the evacuees is as immense as their triumph in returning to their communities without the presence of the military, without preconditions, safe and free to live, go to school and rebuild their lives according to their principles and unity.
The return home of the evacuees from Tandag City is a reclaiming of their ancestral land that the military took from them for one year. The military units of the 75th IB and Col. Purisima of the 402nd Brigade himself must account for that one year that they interrupted the lives of these communities, purportedly to arrest the perpetrators of the massacre of the Lianga martyrs on September 1, 2015. In this objective, they were useless. As to the claim that they were safeguarding the property of the evacuees while they were displaced, they were proven ineffectual by the findings of the different sectors who went to the communities on August 24 and found that almost all the houses were ransacked and dilapidated, the farms overrun with weeds, farm animals were lost, and crops were hacked and burnt.
For the Lumad people, the taking back of ancestral land is a reclaiming of their lives. As the evacuees return home, they honor the lives that their martyrs sacrificed and the continuing sacrifice of the leaders and organizations of the sector for the recognition and respect of the basic right of the Lumad to self-determination for the good of the whole tribe. By courageously rebuilding their communities, schools and farms on ancestral land that they were forced to leave for one year, despite difficulties ahead, they are affirming the unity and resilience of the Lumad to develop and strengthen the tribe and the Filipino people.
Long live the Lumad who are united and continuing the struggle!
Defend ancestral land! Advance the unity of the Lumad!