by Prof. Mae Fe Templa
Davao Today

The other day, more or less 500 Agusanon Manbo from Loreto, Agusan del Sur sought refuge in the City of Davao, not to rejoice for the “good harvests” as the city annually celebrates KADAYAWAN, but to tell their stories of fear, anger and desire for justice, peace, equity and inclusion.

As in the past, whenever indigenous peoples or the Lumads defend their land and its mineral and natural resources, the apologists of foreign monopoly capitalists including local government units bring in state forces and para-military units to secure their interests on it.

The governor of the province of Agusan del Sur maintains his position that to order the pull-out of the local unit of AFP from the villages of the municipality of Loreto is not within his domain. But there is no issue of jurisdiction if capitalists invoke their “special privilege” to scour wealth in the forests and the lands. What irony.

Who else would these lowly people turn to at this moment of insecurity and ordeal?

This is the reality facing the Agusanon Manobos of Loreto.

Their fear began weeks ago when four boys from Kauswagan, Loreto, were rushing to register for the synchronized barangay (village) officials and Sangguniang Kabataan when the Philippine army chanced upon them. It was so easy and convenient for the state forces to snatch and label older children among the lumads (IPs) as “young guerrillas” and hurl accusations to their communities as New People’s Army sympathizers if not card-bearing members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

After the illegal capture of the older children by the Bagani para-military troops and their AFP supervisors -–the 26th Infantry Battalion– their elements intimidated local residents as they stationed in a nearby day care center in Barangay Kauswagan.

Dissenters among these lumad communities, indeed, suffered more than enough since Marcos time. People’s strong resistance against incursions of their ancestral lands and immediate environ has been the basis of their dislocation when the AFP uses its might to protect the interests of the glaring beneficiaries of the 1995 Mining Act, the transnational and/or multinational corporations.

The reality speaks of the continuing escalation of violence and repression due to people’s bold opposition to extractive industries, corporate logging and commercial cash crop plantations.  Agusan del Sur, specifically, the Municipality of Loreto is known for its vast resources.

The storm continues, before and after super typhoon Pablo. The Lumads are pushed back and forced to bounce back to meet the rigors of studying their plight towards fulfilling their right to self-determination just like their Moro counterparts. The Agusan Manobos dare to win in this hard fight. The defiance carries with it a moral obligation to advance their interests and meet the needs of the future generation.

KADAWAYAN 2013 faces a real question among the Lumads: for whom and for what is KADAYAWAN in Davao if more than half of the IP population in Mindanao is mired in poverty, exploitation, legal and political marginalization, and oppression, if not, ethnocide.

Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa is a women and children rights activist, social worker, peace advocate and chair of the Social Work Program of the Assumption College of Davao, Southern Philippines.  Her fields of interest in research include gender, women, children, Moro and indigenous peoples, psychosocial help, community organization, indigenous social work and social administration.  She was a research fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

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