MANILA, Nov. 5, 2015— Many indigenous Lumads have been forced to flee their communities as a result of “ideological conflict,” a ranking Church official said on Wednesday.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of the Cotabato archdiocese said Lumads are being killed and their rights violated amid the fighting between the government forces and the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
The known peace advocate made the statement over Radio Veritas, saying it is “very important” to emphasize other circumstances behind the human rights abuses committed against the indigenous peoples.
Taken advantage of
“When the NPA go to their communities, they either recruit or train and so forth. And the military goes in to prevent NPA of doing that, so the Lumads are caught in the crossfire of this ideological conflict,” he said.
Quevedo called on the Lumads to also discern their situation for themselves.
“I hope that our Lumads will realize that they have to discern for themselves… that they have to look at their situation and to find out who is taking advantage of them,” he said.
Hundreds of Lumads from arrived in Manila last week to call on the government to act against the killings of indigenous peoples and stop the militarization of their communities.
Lumad is the umbrella term for multiple different indigenous communities in Southern Philippines.
Quevedo echoed the call of the Diocese of Tandag for the government to investigate the the killings of Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur and to give justice to the victims.
The local church also reiterated its appeal to authorities to dismantle the Mahagat-Bagani militia, a government-backed paramilitary group, tagged in the harassment and killing of Lumads.
“Those are two things that they want and I agree with them,” he said.
The diocese also urged the government to get to the bottom of the problem, which according to them, is mining.
It said that only communities of Lumads who are fighting against mining were the ones “being hounded and intimidated” by the militia group.
After all, it added, there are strong allegations that the military “are in collusion” with big mining companies that would like to expand their operations in Surigao del Sur. (CBCP News)