A former Lumad leader, Jong Monzon, who used to serve as secretary-general of the “Pasakaday Salugpongan Kalimodan” (PASAKA), was featured recently in an article published by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), where he claimed that Lumad groups are working in cahoots with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to act and put on a show that could create an illusion that indigenous peoples in Mindanao are constantly experiencing harassment.
In a virtual press conference organized by the Philippine Army’s 701st Brigade together with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Monzon claimed that the CPP-NPA orchestrated the wave of evacuation of Lumad groups in the past years, supposedly exploiting the indigenous peoples to “gain financing for their anti-government activities.”
Monzon further claimed that the Lumad groups that sought refuge in the United Church of Christ – Haran (UCCP – Haran) in Davao City were only posing as “bakwits” (evacuees) as part of the so-called ploy designed by the CPP-NPA.
Lumad groups who have evacuated from their ancestral domain in recent years are only putting up a show under the behest of the CPP-NPA, claims former Lumad leader Jong Monzon.
Monzon’s testimony made it appear that reported incidents on the continued harassment of Lumad communities in Mindanao, many of which caused the forced evacuation of indigenous peoples’ groups from their ancestral lands, were all for “show.” A cursory review of reported incidents reveal otherwise.
Since the Duterte administration assumed power in 2016, at least 300 unarmed IPs and human rights defenders have been killed by military forces. Just last June 2021, three civilians from the Lumad Manobo tribe were raped and killed in Surigao del Sur– including a 12-year-old child.
In January 2020, an armed paramilitary group attacked the UCCP – Haran, forcibly entering the grounds of the church. Jong Monzon himself, as the then secretary-general of PASAKA, said in a statement that the paramilitary group was armed with bolos and accompanied by men who were suspected as state agents.
The UCCP-Haran in Davao City, mentioned by Monzon, has been an evacuation site for bakwits since 1994. The said church has served more than 600 bakwits since 2014, including Lumads who fled their ancestral lands because of military harassment and attacks.
The PNA article itself noted that Monzon “surrendered to authorities in Boston town, Davao Oriental, on March 8,” a detail that should be investigated further, as the former Lumad leader has made a brisk and complete turnaround on his public statements ever since he reportedly surrendered.
WHY THIS MATTERS:
Attacks against Lumad communities in Mindanao, and groups who provide aid to them, have been unrelenting throughout recent years.
UCCP-Haran, which served as one of the main sanctuaries of bakwits, experienced such attacks recently. Claiming that the funds of UCCP-Haran were being “used to finance terrorism,” the Anti-Money Laundering Council froze three of their bank accounts, in accordance to a resolution they issued on March 12, 2021.
Aside from the coordinated moves meant to close down UCCP-Haran, various government agencies have also launched unrelenting campaigns to vilify Lumad groups in Mindanao, with no less than the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) branding the word “Lumad” as a terrorist term. All these coordinated attacks have led to the closure of Lumad schools, continued forced evacuation of Lumad groups from their ancestral lands, and numerous arrests and killings. –Maez Estrada and Joseph Gloria
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This piece is republished with permission from Altermidya.
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