22 November 2014

They’ve had enough under the Aquino government. People in Mindanao are
outraged. Here’s why:

Altogether 55 Philippine Army infantry battalions, backed up by the PNP
and paramilitary groups, are now deployed in hinterland communities
where the New People’s Army is reported to be strong. Intensified combat
operations — in the name of “people-centered peace and development”
under the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan — have ratcheted up
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Extrajudicial killings have risen to 83 since July 2010 (nationwide:
222); 500 leaders and members of people’s organizations are facing
military-instigated trumped-up criminal charges.

This year alone, 39 lumad or indigenous communities have been forced to
evacuate in 12 instances due to aerial bombing, artillery bombardment,
strafing of homes, and harassment of villagers. Their community schools,
branded as “NPA schools,” have practically been taken over by the military.

In a resource-rich area, ironically, mass poverty is worsening because
of “landgrabbing and systematic land conversion exacerbated by
militarization and lumad displacements.”

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, an alliance of Catholic
religious congregations in Mindanao, has come right out against what it
says is an offensive launched by the government “against people’s
organizations in communities actively protecting the people’s interest
against large-scale mining, private energy development, and agribusiness
ventures.”

The affected communities and their supporters have consistently
protested. But they got very little redress, if any; their grievances
only mounted.

Thus they have decided to bring their collective protest, for the second
time since 2012, to the nation’s capital. Next Monday, several hundreds
of community leaders and local activists, including their families, will
march from Baclaran to Mendiola to bring their issues to the widest
possible national and international audiences and, should he listen, to
President Aquino.

The marchers’ journey from Mindanao is called Manilakbayan 2014. Their
rallying cry: “Food and Peace for MindaNow!” Their main support
organizations are Panalipdan Mindanao (a network of advocates for the
patrimony, environment, Moro and lumad rights and welfare) and Kalumaran
Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad (an alliance of lumad groups).

Arriving in Baclaran tomorrow, the marchers from Mindanao’s six regions
converged in clusters, starting in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City
last Nov. 13. There they held protest actions against the East Mindanao
Command in Panacan, Davao and the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro.

In the succeeding days, they protested against the 10th ID in
Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, and the 401st Infantry Brigade in Agusan
del Sur. In Gingoog City they called for the release of all political
prisoners, and in Butuan City assailed the regional prosecutor’s office
for filing trumped-up charges against their leaders and colleagues.

On Nov. 16, the Manilakbayan 2014 sailed on a boat from Surigao City to
San Ricardo, Southern Leyte. They marched via the San Juanico bridge
into Calbayog City to the warm welcome of their Eastern Visayas
counterparts. The next day they took a boat from Allen, Samar to
Matnog, Sorsogon and within the day moved on to the cities of Sorsogon,
Legaspi, and Naga, where they had a solidarity night and cultural
celebration with their Bicol counterparts, who condemn the 52 EJK
incidents in the region.

Received enthusiastically in Southern Tagalog, they joined a protest
action at the Southern Luzon Command, now headed by Maj. Gen. Ricardo
Visaya, who previously commanded the 10th ID in Mindanao. They denounced
Visaya for “taking after his mentor,” retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan
(“the Butcher”), now undergoing trial in Bulacan for the 2006
abduction-disappearances of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

For the next 16 days (up to Dec. 10), the Manilakbayan participants
will join various groups in protest march-rallies in Metro Manila: in
Makati against foreign mining corporations; before the US embassy
against American troop presence and drones in Mindanao; at the justice
department against trumped-up charges; at the Camp Aguinaldo gate
against human rights violations and in support of the “Save Our Schools”
campaign; and at Mendiola for the International Human Rights Day
march-rally.

Until they depart for Mindanao on Dec. 12, they plan to encamp either on
the Mendiola bridge or at Liwasang Bonifacio. At Mendiola they’ll set up
a symbolic sabsaban (manger) with a red lantern above it. Hopefully,
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada will allow them to do so.

Manilakbayan 2014 defines its objectives thus:

• Actively defend communities that Oplan Bayanihan tries to destroy amid
the incursions of large-scale mining and agro-industrial undertakings in
Mindanao;

• Fight in defense of the lumad’s achievements in literacy through their
schools, sustainable agricultural production, preservation and
development of indigenous culture, and assertion of their basic and
comprehensive human rights; and

• Take an offensive position to resist the systematic erosion of these
grassroots achievements through Oplan Bayanihan.

These are warnings to the AFP that, like all the preceding
counterinsurgency plans, the current one will likewise fail through its
foolhardy and brutal implementation. It will go to naught, much like the
master plan it copied — the US Counterinsurgency Guide of 2009, applied
in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead of “winning hearts and minds,” Oplan Bayanihan has fomented
enmity and rejection. And instead of instilling fear and submission, it
has engendered stiff resistance and vigorous struggle.