Nun seeks world attention for ‘lumad’

By: Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao –

20 December 2015

DAVAO CITY—Benedictine nun Sister Stella Matutina described the “lumad” killings in Mindanao as “worse than those perpetrated by Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham)” and yet, the world hardly knows about it.

Matutina, the first Filipino awarded by the city of Weimar for her human rights work in Mindanao, recounted to her German audience the killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the indigenous school Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Community Development (Alcadev) and two other lumad leaders in Barangay Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Sept. 1.

Worse than IS

She said the killing, perpetrated by the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani allegedly with backing from the military, is worse than those done by Isis, is happening in the heart of Mindanao and barely known to the world.

“Our small Benedictine community is working for an indigenous community school of the Manobo people,” said Matutina, when she received the Weimar award on Dec. 10 this year in the city of Weimar in Germany.’

“The group, with arms and training coming from the Philippine military, gathered all the community people including women and children, 300 hundred of them in all,” Matutina said.

She narrated how Samarca and lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo “were singled out from the crowd” and shot as the rest of the lumad community were made to watch.

“I told myself then: The world condemns Isis. Yet here in the community of Han-ayan, they are worse than Isis,” she said. “Three hundred people forced to witness a public execution, not through video, but live.”

Weeping for Manobo

Matutina said she learned about the brutality through her mobile phone because she was in another part of Mindanao that day, leading a fact-finding mission for a massacre of yet another indigenous family that included a 72-year-old blind man and two children of the Talaandig tribe.

“I wept for the Manobo tribe of Han-ayan before the Talaandig tribe, who were also grieving for their own dead,” she said.

Matutina, a member of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, was born in Pangantucan town in Bukidnon.

She described herself as a “European sister first” before she became a missionary nun in Mindanao, spending 18 years as a Benedictine nun in Europe.

She said the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing is an international congregation that had its roots in Germany, before their mother house chose Rome, Italy, as a base.

Back after 18 years

She said for 18 years, while in Europe, “little did I know of what was happening in my beloved Mindanao.”

She was reassigned to Mindanao in 2007.

She described Mindanao as a land of 18 million people, composed of roughly 14 million Christians, 1.7 million lumad and 2.5 million Muslims.

Mindanao, she said, is “known as the mining capital of the Philippines, being host to 23 mining priority projects favored by the government.”

“Today, this so-called Land of Promise is being eyed by big capital for its natural gas, oil and last frontier lands,” she said.

“But there is a bloodbath in Mindanao,” she said. “Out of the 72 leaders of indigenous peoples who have been killed under the present Aquino government in the Philippines, 56 of these are lumad of Mindanao,” she said.

She also pointed out the irony of being praised for her human rights work in Germany, while in the Philippines, she will go home to face what she said was a trumped up case of illegal detention and kidnapping for her work with lumad.

“For my work in upholding the rights of internally displaced persons among the indigenous lumad in Mindanao, the Philippine state has filed cases of serious illegal detention and human trafficking against me,” she said.

She dedicated her award to peasants, widows and orphans of lumad killings in Mindanao and the more than 5,000 internally displaced lumad from Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, and Surigao

del Sur provinces.

“I also share this award with Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Italian missionary priest, who was gunned down in his parish grounds in Arakan Valley (in North Cotabato) in October 2011,” she said.

“I was the European Mindanaoan while he was the Mindanaoan European,” the 47-year old nun added.