OAKLAND, Calif. – Fresh off their 23-day exposure trip to the Philippines Filipino Americans spoke of being integrated with the Lumad communities and why it was so important that international support is needed to fight the violent repression of these people.
Terry Valen, president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), said, “We visited other communities where people are still suffering from militarization, displacement, and forced evacuation and so we are calling international support for these communities in particular – the indigenous schools, the Lumad schools.”
Rachel Lastimosa of Salugpongan International added, “Just basically the majority of the Filipino people what they have to deal with is egregious human rights violations, the plunder of their land and ancestral domain which are environmental issues.”
This past September, a paramilitary group attacked three Lumad tribal leaders, tortured them, and murdered them in front of their community.
These Fil-Ams said that while they were concerned for their safety it did not stop them from going on their trip.
“The third day of our stay there the military came to the community,” said Lastimosa. “It was the 66th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and encamped right next to the school which is against the Indigenous People’s Act and the community decided to confront them and asked them to leave which they didn’t and so they had to evacuate because they were concerned for their safety.”
Robin Navarro, also of Salugpongan Intl., said, “It did cross my mind of about what may happen or what could happen but that didn’t stop me.”
They hope that human rights issues involving indigenous peoples of the Philippines would resonate with more kababayans.
“This is not just ‘oh they’re indigenous people who are losing their land,” said Navarro, “No, they’re losing their livelihood. We’re losing the Philippines and it’s due to greedy corporations who are trying to extract everything out of our rich land.”
Meanwhile during a forum at Malacañang earlier this month Ola Almgren, United Nations Representative to the Philippines, said that the U.N. would like to support key actions put forward by the Department of Justice and the Commission of Human Rights in protecting the Lumad people.