WATCH | Lumad rally in Butuan underscores cry for justice in Lianga killings

September 1, 2017 - 9:54 PM
Butuan Lianga protest
Protest march in Butuan City to mark the anniversary of the Lianga killings. Photographed by Erwin Mascariñas, News5 | InterAksyon

Butuan City – Hundreds of marchers coming from various Indigenous People (IP) groups and civic organizations throughout the Caraga Region converged here for a protest rally commemorating the September 1, 2015 killing of the three lumad community leaders in the town of Lianga, Surigao del Norte.

“As we celebrate the 2nd death anniversary of Lumad leaders Dionel Campos, Datu Jovello Sinzo and Emerito Samarca, the Executive Director of ALCADEV, who were brutally murdered by the paramilitary group Magahat because of their stand against militarization and environmental destruction, we call on our brethren, our fellow IPs to resist political persecution against our lumad leaders and communities,” said Josephine Pagalan, Spokesperson of KASALO-Caraga, an organization fighting for the rights of the IP’s.

Butuan protest rally Lianga killings annoversary
Call for justice for the killings of lumad leaders at the hands of paramilitary groups. Photographed by Erwin Mascariñas, News5 | InterAksyon

“We also call for justice for the murder committed in our community, justice for all those who have been killed, justice for those rights had been violated,” Pagalan added, reminding the tribal sector to be steadfast in the defense of their rights and ancestral lands “so the deaths of those who have died fighting would not have been in vain.”

“We need to be unified, more than ever, in resisting resource extracting activities such as logging, plantations, construction of dams, energy projects and most specially, foreign large-scale mining that destroy our way of life. Even if the president has abandoned his promise during the election campaign, we will push on with our stand,” Pagalan said.

Imelda Belandres, chairwoman of Mapasu, a Manobo IP organization, said the deaths of those who fought should never be forgotten: “Today, we remember the martyrdom of Campos, our Mapasu chairman, when we’re supposed to mark the foundation day of our organization.

“We stand united to provide our children and community with education. Our leader was gunned down in front of our community, in front of the eyes of our children. Together with Campos, Datu Sinzo and Samarca were also killed. Let’s remember them and make sure that what they stood for should never be taken for granted and forgotten.”

Belandres expressed her disappointment at how President Duterte has handled the call for justice of the IPs: “Even as we were displaced for a year away from our homes, we did not think twice about supporting Duterte as we thought he would be there to stand for us, the one who would hear our voice, our problems, and help us find a solution. Instead he even threatened to bomb our schools.”

Datu Magno Limbasan, lumad leader Caraga
Datu Magno Limbasan of the Yumbagan lumad organization, from Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur. Photographed by Erwin Mascariñas, News5 | InterAksyon

Jeson Tomian, representing SIDLAK, a Manobo IP organization from Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, expressed dismay at the injustices most IPs had to deal with in Caraga Region.

“We stand strong in support of the call for justice, not only for those who were killed in September 1, 2015, but for all the lumad whose rights were violated. We have been living in fear for a long time. Its now time to stand and rise above our fears. For every leader they kill, we will rise up for them and continue the fight,” said Tomian.

Datu Mantapaos of Linundigan, a Higaonon IP organization from Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, said: “We have already had enough of the oppression and injustice. We have had enough of how they have stepped on our human rights. We call for real justice to be served, we demand for justice.”

Several other leaders from other tribal organizations raised their concerns and also called for justice and respect for the rights to their ancestral lands.

Data from Kasalo reveal that, from 2009 to 2017, at least 15 IP leaders and environmental activists had been killed.

The latest killing in Caraga Region against environmental rights and IP leaders was that of Nico Delamente, a Mamanwa IP calling for a review of the mining agreement between the mining firm operating in the area and their community, on January 20, 2017 in the mining town of Claver in Surigao del Norte.

Click and watch this video clip of the protest rally, as recorded by Erwin Mascariñas: