Indigenous peoples advocates and activists protest against the murders on Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of Makabayan).
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region, a WACC Corporate Member, has protested against the violence taking place in the country’s southernmost island.
In a series of recent attacks on indigenous people in Mindanao, on 1 September 2015 militiamen murdered the head of a tribal school, the chairman of an indigenous people’s (Lumad) organization and one other person in the province of Surigao del Sur, on the eastern coast of Mindanao.
Josephine Pagalan, spokesperson of KASALU, a regional federation of indigenous people’s organizations, told newspaper reporters that Dionel Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo, were executed in front of hundreds of residents by gunmen who accused them of belonging to an anti-communist militia unit.
The executions were also witnessed by teachers and students of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), roused from their dormitories at the school and ordered to join local residents.
When the militia withdrew after the killings, teachers and students returned to the ALCADEV compound to find the school’s executive director, Emerito Samarca, dead in a room. His hands and feet bound with rope, he had been savagely murdered.
ALCADEV is an institution that serves many poor indigenous families who cannot afford to send their students to formal schools. The institution teaches students the values of their ancestral heritage and lands: that the land is their life.
The literacy and numeracy schools run by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region have suffered similar attacks. Its teachers, students and their families have been accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA), have been fired at and imprisoned.
According to news reports, this new spate of killings by paramilitary groups is the result of President Aquino’s policy of militarization of the countryside. It highlights a continuing culture of impunity in a country with a dismal record of protecting human rights.
In 2012 WACC partnered with RMP NMR for a project related to land grabbing and food security. The project aimed at empowering peasant women from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds: including migrant settlers, Moro people, and Lumad.
WACC supports the peaceful actions of its members and partners in drawing attention to these injustices and in seeking a resolution to the conflict.