Fil-Am students, teachers call for justice for slain Lumad leaders

BERKELEY, Calif. – Thousands of miles separate the Philippines from the United States. But for these Filipino Americans, news about the recent deaths of three Lumad tribal leaders in Surigao del Sur is hitting them hard.

Members of the Manobo community in Han-ayan say that on Sept. 1, a paramilitary group attacked the tribal leaders, tortured them, and murdered them in front of their community.

They deny they were members and supporters of the rebel group, the New People’s Army.

These Pinoy students and teachers at the University of California Berkeley recently held a candlelight vigil to call for justice in the deaths of these tribal leaders and to call for an end to human rights violations in the Philippines.

“To murder a teacher that was just trying to give these kids a chance, that’s ruthless and incredibly unfair and its part of a holistic problem that needs to be solved and we need to take action against it,” said UC Berkeley student Krisha Mae Cabrera.

“The killings and all this hurts us here and it will hurt others too so we need to stand up with our people so that they know even if we are so far from them we are here to support them too,” said UC Berkeley Professor Chat Aban.

“We believe that we’re part of the community of Filipinos and as such we need to be engaged. We need to stand with the Lumads and we need to be in solidarity with them and what they’re fighting for,” added Professor Joi Barrios-LeBlanc, Ph.D.

These protesters say they too are suffering some form of injustice in the United States.

Like the Lumad leaders, they choose to fight for the rights of the community, their right to affordable education amid the rising tuition costs at University of California campuses.

“What UC tuition hikes are basically doing is keeping education a set type of people, for the elite,” said Jensine Carreon of the UC Berkeley Pilipino Community Council. “So folks who come from marginalized backgrounds, such as Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, this is a way to keep us out of higher education and to make education for people who are already here more difficult.”

“Education is always being cut from the budget and Philippine studies being an area studies, it’s not a primary priority of the university. So it’s very important that this solidarity movement by teachers and students, to make sure they know and hear us when we say that it is important, that this is our priority for our education,” said Professor Karen Llagas.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, in a joint effort by the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Prosecution Service Investigating Team, a probe was launched in the case of the deaths of the three Lumad leaders.

The Philippine Army denies any affiliation with the paramilitary group.

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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