DAVAO CITY, Philippines — In a protest action to commemorate the 71st International Human Rights Day on Wednesday(Dec.10), Talaingod Manobo Lorena Mandacawan upheld the right to education of the Lumad youth.
Mandacawan, along with other Lumad and children rights advocates remain undeterred by the closure order to the Salugpongan schools in Mindanao handed down by the government last October.
They asserted the legitimacy of the Salugpongan schools,slamming “baseless” accusations hurled against the said schools.
Mandacawan questioned that such order deliberately tramples on the indigenous people’s right to establish their own school.
“They can’t just deprive the Lumad youth of education. It is their basic right,” Mandacawan said.
IPs strive for education to empower the community in asserting their rights, especially to their ancestral lands.
“The International Human Rights Day is being commemorated for years now, but still, the IPs’ right to self determination has never been respected,” Mandacawan lamented.
Farmer leader Noli Villanueva from Davao de Oro province (formerly known as Compostela Valley), meanwhile, also said that the rights of Filipino farmers are being disregarded.
While majority of small farmers remain landless, their livelihood is also being threatened by the recently passed Rice Liberalization Law.
Imported rice have flooded the markets resulting to reduced buying price on the harvest of local farmers.
“How can a farmer provide enough for the family while his/her income is declining and prices of commodities are increasing?” Villanueva asked.
He noted that price of unhusked rice can go as low as P7 to P12 per kilo.
In addition to the government’s neglect and implementation of policies that run counter to farmers’ interests, independent think-tank Ibon Foundation bared that there has already been significant job losses to the agriculture sector, from 11.8 million employed in 2016 to only 10.1 million in October 2019.
But for small farmers and indigenous people, fighting for their basic rights could even cost them their lives.
In the southern region of Mindanao, most of the 96 reported cases of political killings have targeted farmers and Lumad people, particularly those asserting for their basic rights.
Rights advocates have reported an upward trend on the killings after the whole Mindanao was placed under Martial Law by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in 2017.
The said declaration is expected to be finally lifted by the end of this year after more than two years. But no perpetrators in the cases of attacks against peasants and Lumad have been prosecuted, rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region secretary general Jay Apiag said.
Justice remains to be elusive, Apiag said, especially as activists, farmer and IP leaders in the region are being charged with trumped-up cases of kidnapping, serious illegal detention, illegal possession of explosives, among others — in attempt “to deter their participation in asserting their rights.”
Various progressive groups marked this year’s International Rights Day with an effigy called “Biyaheng Du30 Pasista Express”, which symbolizes “Duterte’s presidency running over and suppressing people’s rights particularly in Mindanao through fascist instruments, weaponization of the law and the country’s judicial system.” (davaotoday.com)