Mindanao marchers now in Manila

DAVAO CITY – Militant marchers from Mindanao who wanted their grievances to reach the national government are now encamped in Manila and want to get a message out to legislators: “Listen to us.”

Dulphing Ogan, chairperson of Mindanao indigenous peoples’ alliance Kalumaran, said the march “wants to bring to the public’s attention the issues of IPs, peasants, workers and Moros of Mindanao”.

“Some of them (congressmen) have already met with us to listen but no senators came yet, much more the President,” he said.

The group composed of more than 300 Lumads (indigenous peoples of Mindanao), farmers, Moro, environmental activists and human rights workers pitched camp after a protest on Monday in Mendiola, near the Malacanang  Presidential Palace.

“We want the government to stop foreign incursion of large-scale mining operations in our ancestral domains and sacred hunting grounds, the expansion of oil palm and banana plantations,” said Ogan in a phone interview with Davao Today.

According to the group’s Facebook page Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, the Lumads left the same message for the President in a “Kodaw” (traditional message using knots in a rattan strip) they tied to barbed wires in Mendiola.

“We don’t know if the President is interested to listen but (Communications) Secretary (Herminio) Coloma already said on television that our complaints are baseless,” said Ogan.

Ogan said that protesters later moved to another place to camp after police authorities “did not let them camp in Mendiola for more than one night.”

The group since camped in Liwasing Bonifacio, a park in Manila, not anywhere near Malacanang.

The group also protested at the United State Embassy for the “pullout of US troops from Mindanao”. They were dispersed by police on Monday morning.

Ogan said that they would stay in the camps until December 10 to commemorate the International Human Rights Day with other progressive groups.

He said that while December 10 is still far, they have achieved “victory” with the Manilakbayan, an activity which they also held two years ago.

“Having passed by the Visayas and other provinces of Luzon we expressed our demands in all forms, from press conferences to dialogues to protests. The victory is that we were able to bring out message here,” he said.

Ogan said from the Typhoon Yolanda-hit areas in the Visayas to the Bicol and Southern Tagalog provinces, they conducted “series of protests in Army headquarters to call an end to Operation Plan Bayanihan (the government’s insurgency plan).”

“We are victims of the same military operations in our communities. Many of us were killed, beaten, forced to act as guides and accused as supporters of the New People’s Army while security forces protect the interests of foreign mining and plantation,” he said.

Ogan said the “intensified insurgency operations which caused the evacuation of many Lumad communities” and the filing of “SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) or trumped-up charge aim to deter us from fighting back.”

Manilakbayan contingent are also part of a group of protesters who painted the walls of Camp Aguinaldo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ national headquarters earlier today.

“We will not be silent, and in our protests, we hope to get them to listen,” Ogan said.

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