Smoke over the south:
Notes after incidents against struggling Lumads
and its clamour for Justice
The smoke of battle remains uncleared in the southern front. Despite the recent statements from local government units, national police, armed forces, and even the common men in social media sites, there remains to be seen long range solutions to a problem which has not only rocked the region for decades but negates present and even future agreements between the government and the affected people, if not the insurgents who had also fighting against exploitation and injustice.
The Problems must be solved side by side by those concerning within the national government as well as organisations seriously committed to the welfare of the people; but first is the dismantlement of paramitlitary groups whose intention is to pread havoc in the name of national security given its support from the government: such as Bagani, Magahat, Alamara, Alimaong Tribal Justice, and various groups making victims out of those against exploitaiton of natural resources and infringing indigenous peoples rights. And second, the ultimate problem is to settle the land reform issue, as well as the genuine right of self determination for indigenous peoples particularly those of Lumad tribespeople.
For the fact that recent events such as those of ALCADEV incident, and the displacement of Lumads somehow showed the fear coming from paramilitary groups, instead of the rebels whom according to the Lumads dispensed justice and respect. These paramilitary groups, such as his writeup stated above, is supported by government as well as private interests whose intention is to take over communal properties for "development", be it those of mining, cash crop plantation, tourism, and others exploitative in nature.
If saturating the troubled areas alone is the answer taken by the government and its apologetics in social media sites, then the issue is far from being solved, what more of unjustly describing the killed as enemies of the state, of certain institutions as coddling subversives, and the entire indigenious tribespeople as rebels and liable for death. For one thing the presence of armed forces, be it the government and paramilitary groups, only intensified the ire of the belligerent peoples for the latter believe that these armed men are there on behalf of mining interests. It even making the issue worse because one legislator justifies the said paramilitary groups as indigenous defence systems using the "Indigenous Peoples Rights Act" citing "Self Determination" as its clause, while apologetics in social media sites blaming the New Peoples Army or any other groups for hindering "developments" in affected districts, if not urging tribespeople to fight against the moves of the government and its supporting interests.
A factfinding operation has been undergoing according to recent reports amidst criticism from certain groups aligned with interests, and it is somehow a good step in resolving the issue particularly those of the incident. Calls for dismantling paramilitary groups as necessary in favour of visiting peace organisations in assuring the return of evacuees to their jomes and in wiping off the mounting jitters of terrorised natives.
Quite ideal though but not enough, for everyone knew that the Lumad problem is more than just discimination alone. The land in which part of Lumad heritage and identity has been exploited by interests given the abundance of minerals needed for export, if not fields for cash crops be it cassava, palm, or bananas; Lumad identity has been exploited for tourism and various exploitative acts that disrespects the culture and herirage of the mountainfolk; that amidst existing acts like IPRA, it failed to heed the demands of the mountainfolk be it those of respect, equity, and justice. Several weeks ago everyone read the statement from Nancy Catamco telling that "traditional defence systems" of the indigenous communities, or rather say paramilitary groups funded by the government and vested interests, also deserve to be recognised in a way that "it would fit their own customs, traditions, and practises."
Such justifications coming from a legislator as well as its apologetics may likely to interpret as an attempt to "put a clean image" to those whom instigate murders and threats against the mountainfolk, hence having that smoke of battle remains uncleared.
The murderers continue to roam their so-called "territory" trying to deny their murderous actions such as after the ALCADEV incident, while the displaced continue to face problems in their evacuation sites yet can't even afford to return as long as paramilitary murderers, if not the armed forces continue to occupy their homes or worse, looting for their booty; But perhaps with the factfinding missions as well as support coming from concerned organisations and individuals served as its basis for putting light and justice on the side of Lumads and its sympathisers, hope that their calls be realised, in a way letting the air of a just peace sweep the smoke of what the system almost described as a tribal conflict if not terrorism.