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Increased Militarization under Martial Law Threatens Lumad Teachers in
the Philippines

by Cristina Rey

15 July 2017
Last May, the government of the Philippines announced the decision to
subjugate the southern island of Mindanao to Martial Law. Now, the state
is using its repressive apparatus to continue its attacks against Lumad
(indigenous) teachers.

On the night of July 5-6, 2017, nine Lumad communities in the
hinterlands of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were forced to evacuate after an
intensification of Philippine military occupations on their ancestral
territories. The occupations began on July 2, 2017 when 60 soldiers in
full combat uniform arrived in Lianga. With the memory of the violent
2015 Lianga Massacre still fresh, the Lumads of Lianga evacuated for the
second time in less than two years when military bomber planes began
circling above their communities around midnight on July 5, 2017.

Martial Law a Threat to Lumad Resistance

President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law on the island of
Mindanao on May 23, 2017 has been widely decried by Philippine national
minorities and allied organizations, as it gives blanket protection and
immunity for the military to perpetrate human rights violations,
including the ongoing attacks on Lumad schools and communities.

Martial Law suspends habeas corpus and empowers the military to
supersede civilian authorities in enforcing the law. Under the pretense
of fighting terror, Duterte’s government has effectively levied its
military power against some of the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Lumad communities have experienced increased militarization since the
declaration of Martial Law, but state suppression of Lumad resistance
and claims to self-determination through the use of force is nothing
new. The Philippine military and its paramilitary counterparts have long
targeted Lumads and their leaders because of their active defense
against the encroachment on their lands by multinational mining
corporations and other destructive industries.

Lumad Teachers Under Attack

The Philippine military and their paramilitary forces have historically
treated Lumad education as a threat. Under Martial Law, increased
attacks on Lumad communities continue to threaten the operation of Lumad

On July 5, 2017, the evacuation affected 633 students and 43 volunteer
teachers from six Lumad schools in Lianga, including the Alternative
Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV).
When military forces neared Sitio Han-ayan, Diatagon in Lianga on July
5, schools and farms closed in preparation for a possible evacuation.

ALCADEV was established in 2004 to fill the void left by inaccessible
government schools. The center caters to the specific needs of
indigenous youth and their communities. According to former ALCADEV
student Glorivic Belandres, “we learned to fight for our rights when
others attempt to trample on it. This has become a threat to the
military. As soon as we became educated, they found it difficult to
deceive us.”

The Philippine military has attempted to destroy Lumad schools through
military occupation, redbaiting, and the targeting of Lumad teachers. In
the Lianga Massacre of 2015, ALCADEV director and anti-mining activist
Emerito Samarca was one of three community leaders murdered by
Magahat-Bagani, a paramilitary group created by the Philippine military.

Now, twelve teachers and community leaders of ALCADEV and the Tribal
Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) are facing fabricated
charges of human trafficking. According to human rights group Karapatan,
these charges are used to harass the teachers and other key witnesses to
the Lianga Massacre. Annabelle Campos, a TRIFPSS literacy coordinator
facing charges, points to their resistance against mining projects as
another motivation for the harassment Lumad teachers and community
leaders are facing.

In another case of paramilitary harassment, on June 12, 2017 teacher and
chairperson of the Association of Community Educators (ACE), Ramel
Miguel, was interrogated and threatened by four members of the Alamara
paramilitary group in front of 55 school children inside Salugpungan
School, a Lumad school in Davao del Norte.

Lumad Students Take Action

Despite the implementation of Martial Law, Lumad students are standing
up for their right to indigenous education.

From June 30 to July 10, 2017, Lumad students protested the
militarization of their schools and attacks on their teachers by the
Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary groups. Around 200
Lumad students and teachers held a Kampuhan (protest camp) in Davao City
to demand that President Duterte end the militarization of Lumad
communities in the face of martial law in Mindanao.

Lumad students have not been silenced by Martial Law. They will continue
to demand that the government protect indigenous peoples’ right to
education and self-determination.