Karapatan supports historic Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2016

“Karapatan stands in solidarity with the national minorities who have travelled from different parts of the country to Manila to call for just and lasting peace and assert their right to self-determination,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said today as 3,000-strong mob representing Moro peoples, Igorots of the Cordillera, Lumad of Mindanao, the Agtas, Mangyan, marched to Mendiola. 
“Their existence is living proof of their long-standing struggle against national oppression. For centuries, they have fought for their lands against colonizers and landgrabbers. They have been doubly victimized by government policies favouring foreign interests,” Palabay continued. 

“Especially during the BS Aquino regime, national minorities have been specifically targeted by the so-called ‘Indigenous People-Centric’ Oplan Bayanihan and have become victims of gross human rights violations,” Palabay said. Karapatan has documented thousands of Lumad forced out of their ancestral lands after their leaders were massacred, schools burned, teachers harassed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Moro people continue to suffer attacks through the US “war on terror.” 

“To date, indigenous peoples’ communities are occupied by soldiers or/and AFP-backed paramilitary groups,” Palabay said. 

The Uma tribe of Lubuagan, Kalinga has been living in fear for exactly a year now. More than 40 soldiers of the 50th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) have been encamping in their community since October 5, 2015. They roam around in full battle gear, interrogating the residents, sexually harassing women, young and old, and pointing their guns to civilians. 

In Tanglag, Kalinga, 16 soldiers of Charlie Company of the 50th IBPA have been staying in the house of barangay chief Nestor Unday since August 5, 2016. Despite continuous petitions of the barangay officials and its residents for the soldiers to leave their community, the soldiers stayed and even tried to deceive some residents into ‘surrendering’ to the AFP. 

Elements of the 66th IBPA took turns in taking over Purok 4-B Brgy. Mangayon, Compostela Valley Province. When they arrived in August 2, 2016, the soldiers told barangay chief Uraya Mansaylaon that they will just stay for one night. Weeks have passed, but batches of soldiers who leave are replaced by another batch. They disrupted the classes of the students in the Lumad school, and interrogated the residents.  

The Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya is the third caravan of national minorities since 2014, when the struggling Lumad and Moro peoples troop to Manila to make their demands of food, peace and rights be heard across the nation and abroad. “This year’s Lakbayan proves to be another historical event, as a bigger number of national minorities from different groups all over the country, from north to south, are coming together in a unified call – to end plunder and AFP operations in their ancestral lands, to stop the fascist attacks against the Moro people and indigenous people, to uphold national sovereignty and the people’s right to self-determination against US imperialism and to struggle for just and lasting peace,” Palabay said. 

“We hope that Pres. Duterte will listen to their demands to bring genuine change to the lives of national minorities,” Palabay ended.