Resistance more than resilience

by Rius Valle

January 14, 2022

As the year ends and the country faces again another calamity, the government repeats the incessantly romanticized notion of ‘resiliency’ of Filipinos.  However, this does not cover the ineptitude and exploitation of the Duterte administration which has gotten worse over the year, and we are now seeing people’s resistance.

The most brutally unjust action that this administration has dealt against the youth especially among the Indigenous Peoples was the attacks against the Lumad schools. 

The relentless and monstrous assaults by this regime – the red-tagging, encampment in schools, forced surrender schemes – against the Lumad children in their efforts to educate themselves even during the pandemic showed nothing but contempt and every intent to decimate the indigenous culture. Prior to Duterte’s last year in office, all of the 216 Lumad schools in Mindanao have been forcibly closed disenfranchising 10,000 indigenous learners. A number of those community-built schools were destroyed and demolished by state forces. 

Duterte surpassed past administrations in terms of brutal attacks in Mindanao, in terms of killing lumad students, environmental and land rights defenders. Add to this, 45 Lumad school teachers – two of whom are still in detention- are currently facing numerous trumped-up criminal cases. 

Recently, a 12-year old Lumad student in a public school in Lianga, Surigao del Sur was killed by the military when she was accompanying her relatives in harvesting abaca hemp.  The regional NTF-ELCAC quickly gave an “indemnification” to the families with the condition that they stop talking of the incident to the media or to human rights groups.

The Duterte regime have also caused the greatest number of incidents of forcible evacuation and displacement of national minorities especially in Mindanao in comparison to previous administration. The imposition of martial law in Mindanao, the establishment of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) along with the Executive Order 70 or the “Whole of the Nation Approach” have caused the rise of forced and fake surrenders among over 20,000 civilians mostly indigenous peoples and farmers. 

This year we have also seen the state mercilessly attacking several sanctuaries and refugee centers such as what happened in February 15 raid at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City where about 26 indigenous children, teachers and elders were illegally arrested and detained which by what authorities disguised claimed as a rescue operation from a “New Peoples Army” training school. 

Even institutions that support Lumad education such as the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and the peasant women’s group Amihan saw their bank accounts frozen by the government’s anti-money laundering council in their trumped-up story that these are financing “terrorist activities”.  Even the UCCP Haran, which provided sanctuary to the Lumad in Davao City, saw its accounts frozen. 

It is worth noting that the heightened attacks against indigenous peoples came along with the government’s lifting of the four-year ban on open pit mining.  Duterte’s Executive Order 130 lifted the moratorium in 2019.   

IBON Foundation reported that the 15 biggest mining operations in Mindanao cover up to 131,775 hectares situated on or near Lumad communities.  While more than 700,000 hectares of land in Mindanao are covered by plantation crops primarily targeted for exports. 

The Duterte regime also approved the $800 million China-backed hydropower dam in Pulangi River, one of the largest rivers in Mindanao catering to 30,000 indigenous settlers in the Pantaron mountain range. This will eventually flood about 2,833 hectares of indigenous land in four towns.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article is that of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of their organization nor of the CPDG.