Surigao del Sur Lumads flee military activity anew

By Jonathan de Santos

2 February 2018

MANILA, Philippines — Lumad residents of Lianga and San Agustin towns in
Surigao del Sur have been forced to seek shelter because of military
activity in the area, a non-government organization said.

According to Friends of the Lumad in Caraga, 161 families — 758 people —
from 12 communities of the two town had to leave their homes on January
29 and head to Barangay Diatogon in Lianga for safety.

“The past weeks had been terrifying for the Lumad as the military were
in their farms since January 8 and have been directly harassing them and
threatening their lives, making it difficult for them to tend their
farms and earn a living,” the group said in a press statement on Thursday.

The group claimed that there have been at least 10 cases of threats,
harassment and intimidation, with soldiers interrogating residents on
their way home or to their farms. Military activity led Lumads to leave
their homes in late November.

“The military tagged them either as members or supporters of the New
People’s Army. They took the names and pictures of the victims and
threatened them that if anything would happen to the soldiers, they will
go after them,” FLC said.

Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the
Next Generation, Mapasu), one of the organizations that the military has
linked to the communist NPA, said in a separate release that Lumads are
“now afraid to go to our farms, to get what our traps caught and harvest
wild abaca in the forest, because the military may be encamped in our

Lumad communities in Lianga left their homes in 2015 after a
paramilitary group killed the executive director and two members of a
community-run alternative learning center. They were able to return in
late 2016 but again left their homes in July and November 2017, citing
military activity.

“We understand that the operations are meant to destroy our organization
and our established alternative schools to facilitate the entry of
mining in our ancestral lands,” Mapasu said.

“We do not want to be dislocated again,” it also said.

Investors for ancestral lands

Reports of the evacuation came as President Rodrigo Duterte met in Davao
City with representatives of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.

Aside from promising vocational training through the Technical Education
and Skills Development Authority, he said he would look for investors
for IP-held ancestral domain.

“I will do it myself so there won’t be any graft and corruption. I will
work… I have Cabinet members here. Secretary [Jesus] Dureza is
there… [Tesda Director General Guiling] Mamondiong,” he said in
Bisaya. “I’ll choose the investor.”

Among the areas he mentioned that he wants opened to investment are
Mount Talomo — part of the Apo-Talomo mountain range in the Davao region
— the Anda Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur and Mount Kitanglad in

“If you say you don’t want to mine, then don’t. No mines. If you say it
will pollute your area, we’ll block it,” he also said. He said, though,
that IPs who agree to have mines put up in their ancestral domains are
free to do so.

“It’s impossible not to mine. But if you say you don’t want it, I won’t
coerce you. I will ban it,” he said.

Under the law, IPs have the right to decide for themselves how their
ancestral domain will be used and developed. Activities like mining
require free and informed prior consent from the IP community. However,
disputes on who should represent the community and give that consent has
also led to conflict within IP groups.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines in December said that Lumad
evacuations are part of a strategy of the Communist Party of the
Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The president has declared the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations,
although a court decision is needed to make the declaration official
under the Human Security Act of 2007.

“They will try to entice, they will make our indigenous peoples in the
mountain go down to the city centers as evacuees and confront local
governments and national governments and give demands, which they have
been doing ever since,” Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson,
said then.

Duterte said Thursday that the NPA is using Lumads against the
government and each other. “And those leaders… tribal leaders that
they can’t recruit because they are loyal to the government, they
murder,” he said.

Datu Jerome Succor Aba, co-chairperson of Sandugo – Movement of Moro and
Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination, said in a separate statement
Friday, however, that “it is not the Lumad who are making trouble.” He
said: “It is your government and the corporations that are making trouble.”

He said that despite constitutional protection for the ancestral land of
national minorities, the government has been “salivating to sell it to
big foreign investors, such as mining and plantations.”