Velez: Schooling gov't on Lumad rights

Tyrone Velez

(Note: This was published on Aug. 12 issue of SunStar Davao)

LAST Wednesday, August 9, was the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which was declared by the United Nations recognizing the need to protect the indigenous peoples all over the world against the common threat of plunder in their ancestral lands and attacks on their rights.

We may know by now how indigenous peoples in this country, especially from Mindanao, are suffering. No less than the president made headlines saying he will bomb the schools built for Lumad children in Mindanao, as they allegedly teach "subversive ideas of rebelling against government."

The Lumads have a lot to say about their current struggles, and one doesn't need a diploma to understand the basic things of what they're saying. All we need are ears to listen to them, and eyes to see their plight.

As Lumads have seen how they have been pushed to the margins and lost their lands by "educated" people such as capitalists and officials, now they learn that there is no place to go except to fight back and reclaim their birthright.

They also learned that their next generation need to be empowered through education. We hear Lumad children say that they have dreams of becoming teachers, doctors and engineers so that they can help their communities.

And the wisdom of the indigenous peoples speak that all we face are connected. If they bomb the Lumads away, what is left of our mountains and trees? Who will protect the lands? Who will plant rice for us?

We have to ask why government insist on labeling the Lumads in a bad light? Of hiding the truth that the Lumad schools actually obtained permits from DepEd to operate as implementers of their program to educate Lumads?

More so, why is Duterte who once is sympathetic to the Lumads doing a bluster of bombing the schools?
The Lumad alliance Kalumaran tells Duterte that driving communities away with bombs will also drive the people away of hopes his presidency is about change.

It seems the government is heading towards the direction of destruction. I pray they heed the words of Chilean environmentalist Juan Pablo Orrego who said : "the indigenous peoples taught me concretely that humans have the capacity to be marvelous, and not destructive."

We can only hope, because the Lumads are showing us how. Even if hope fails, they have themselves to rely on. They always picture themselves as little ants that could fight together against those who plunder their territories. (tyvelez@gmail.com)