The ethnic minorities of Mindanao (Lumads) are an endangered species. They have been victims of slow protracted ethnic cleansing in the last two decades. They are the rope in a tug-of-war between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

Forced by the AFP to be informants, the NPA massacres them on mere suspicion. Forced by the NPA to be spies, the AFP massacres them on mere suspicion. If they feed hungry rebels in fear of incurring their ire, the AFP massacres them as ‘supporters’. They are forced to take sides. They have no choice. In the end, Lumads kill Lumads for both the AFP and the NPA, while they sit in their camps. They have successfully turned indigenous people against each other.

Archbishop issues protest against recent NCIP order associating ‘Lumads’ with the Communist Party and the NPA.

eastwind journals, September 5, 2021

By Bernie V. Lopez, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com

Share this article by sending the blog link – https://eastwindjournals.com/2021/09/05/lumads-an-endangered-species/

Fr. Shay Cullen of PREDA Foundation wrote a report on August 20, 2021 that the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous People), issued an order on March 4, 2021, stating that “Lumad is a word associated with the Communist Party and its armed wing the New People’s Army.”

Historically, from its creation, the NCIP has been ironically oppressing the Indigenous People, whom they are mandated to support and protect as a government agency. Formally branding Lumads as outright ‘communists’ is a sweeping statement that would hasten the massacres of Lumads that have been ongoing for the last few decades. In truth, NCIP is encouraging the AFP to widen the ongoing genocide.

Fr. Cullen quotes Archbishop Jose Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro, who immediately issued a protesting against the NCIP order, “The (NCIP’s) order only reveals its members’ ignorance as to how the struggles of the Lumad have unfolded in Mindanao over the last sixty years. It arose without an ideological agenda, let alone that of the Communist movement.”

An incident decades ago in Sitio Mando, Pangantukan, Bukidnon, during the GMA era, highlights the crisis of Lumads. A 15-year old boy begged the soldiers to spare the lives of his father, brothers and cousins suspected as NPA supporters and just jail them, if indeed they were suspected of doing something wrong. His father was 70 and blind; his brothers 20 and 19 years old, his cousins 13 and 17 years old. He begged the soldiers, but they shot all of them. The tribal leaders wrote a letter to President Gloria Arroyo, but that did not bring back the dead nor achieve justice.

The massacres were initially reported by the Media during the post-Marcos era. But lately there has been a protracted news blackout on Lumad massacres for some reason. The regular weekly to monthly occurrences have hardly reached the national dailies. So, the general public presently is not aware of this slow ethnic cleansing. It is a genocide ignored by us, because we do not know what is really happening out there.

President Duterte had warned the Lumads not to join the NPA. He should also have warned them not to join the AFP. The key to the survival of the Lumads is NEUTRALITY. Duterte promised the Lumads livelihood in the hope they would abandon communism. But the Lumads turned to the NPA not because they were hungry, but because they feared being killed by the AFP as suspected NPA supporters. Ironically, the AFP forced them to become NPA supporters. There were no trials or investigations. The same with the NPA who kill Lumads as AFP informants.

Neutrality is possible but elusive. There were successful attempts short term towards neutrality during the GMA era. ‘Peace Zones’ were established in the Arakan Valley, in Cotabato, and in Sagada in the Mountain Province. The AFP and the NPA were not allowed to enter the Peace Zones, which were civilian ancestral lands managed by tribal leaders. Arms were not allowed within the Peace Zones. Peace Zones attempted to fence off the ongoing brutal counter-insurgency war.

But perhaps this was a band-aid solution bound to fail. The AFP and NPA started suspecting each other of violating the truce. In the end, this destroyed the entire neutrality concept of the Peace Zone.

In 1986, hemmed in from all sides, the indigenous people formed a Mindanao-wide coalition in response to the massacres. They were formally unified under the Lumad Mindanao Peoples Federation (LMPF), whose goals were essentially 1) self-determination, 2) preservation of heritage, and 3) the most important, preservation of ancestral lands. But today, when NCIP equated Lumads to Communists, they do not want to be called Lumads anymore.

The Church has been supportive of the Lumads, educating and organizing them. But even priests are suspected as ‘communists’ when they support the Lumads.

Quo vadis, Lumads?

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Comments to Bernie V. Lopez, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com

Share this article by sending this blog link – https://eastwindjournals.com/2021/09/05/lumads-an-endangered-species/

Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo U) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.


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