Gabriela Party-list Representative Luzvimin-da Ilagan said that assaults against the Lumad are directly related to mining.
“Mining is the issue behind all of the alleged harassments and eva-cuation involving lumads,” Ilagan told the Mirror.
Ilagan was referring to families of indigenous peoples (IPs), better known as Lumad, who have taken refuge at the UCCP Haran Evacuation Center for three months now. The Lumad and their supporters have claimed that they were evacuated from their homes in Davao del Norte due to military harassments.
She said she recalled President Aquino’s pro-nouncement that the military can, in fact, be used as security forces for mining companies.
She mentioned Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel, who had publicly demanded the military to disarm the so-called Bagani forces, a Lumad paramilitary group. The governor had said that since the Army was the one which created the militia group, then it should be able to find the means to dismantle it.
“What else could be the reason for their harass-ment? This is to give mining companies easy access to the IPs’ domains,” she said.
Previous studies have shown that Mindanao accounts for 80% of the national total deposits of copper, nickel and gold. Of the 23 major mining projects in the country, at least nine were said to be located in the island. Ilagan said she has a list of the companies.
Last July, more than a thousand Lumad camped at the UCCP Haran com-pound, triggering local and national debates over human and IP rights, lapses in security protocols, and alleged ideological mani-pulation from the Left.
Bishop Hamuel Tequis of the UCCP said Haran was created purposely to accommodate individuals or communities that were deprived, neglected, ex-ploited, harassed, and suppressed of their rights to peace and freedom as a community.
Tequis said the Lumad’s cry for justice of their harassed community had pushed them to take refuge at the UCCP church.
Bayan Muna Repre-sentative Carlos Isagani Zarate said the Lumad do not want the military in their communities and will have to be assured that the military will stay away.
A purported rescue-cum-dialogue inside Haran with North Cotabato representative Nancy Catamco and activist groups turned into a crisis last July 23.
Catamco, concurrent chair of the house committee on indigenous peoples, said she intended to get the IPs out of Haran and bring them home to their respective commu-nities in Talaingod.
She said that the Lumad, if indeed they were evacuees, should not be in the compound of Haran but in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). She pointed out that the Lumad should enjoy freedom of movement and not be locked up in the compound.
But Bigkay, a Lumad, said to media that she and the other families did not want to leave Haran and return home out of fear of being harassed by the military. They were also accused of giving refuge to New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, she said, adding that the military is using the Alamara, yet another IP paramilitary group, to harass its own tribe.
Groups like Pasaka, Karapatan Southern Min-danao and Bayan Muna have declared Catamco “persona non grata.”
In a statement, IP leaders Datu Doloman Dawsay, spokesperson of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon; Datu Ginom Andel, Datu Kailo Bontulan, Datu Mintroso Malibato and Benito Bay-ao stood by their decision to evacuate due of alleged militarization in their communities.