GTA Youth and Students hold ‘defend Lumad’ event

by Gary Fondevilla

In recognition of Human Rights day, Anakbayan Toronto and the Revolutionary Students Movement (RSM) collaborated on a joint event, “Pangiyak Ki! Defending Lumad People’s Rights in the Philippines”. It was held, with the support of the Canadian chapter of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto on Saturday, December 12th.

Among those in attendance were youth from local universities and community groups.

The event featured the film, Pangandoy: The fight for Lumad land, education and their future” directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Hiyasmin Saturay.

Pangandoy (Aspiration) showed how the natural environment is connected to the lives of the Lumads and its destruction by capitalist development jeopardizes the future of the indigenous children. It featured Lumad children who aspire to use their education to defend and foster their communities.

The militarization of schools and communities has disrupted the Lumads’ day to day lives, displaced communities, and resulted in massacres of indigenous families and community leaders.

#StopLumadKillings and #SaveOurSchools campaigns received international attention after a paramilitary group murdered a school director and two Lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur this past September. Under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, 68 Lumads have been extrajudicially killed.

 

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Rhea Gamana of Anakbayan Toronto shared her experience from a visit to Mindanao in September. There she visited Lumad refugees housed by The United Church of Christ in the Philippines in their Haran Compound, Davao. (Photo by Francesca Esguerra

Back from a trip to her native land of Mindanao, Rhea Gamana of Anakbayan Toronto reported the Lumads remain resilient in the face of militarized attacks. They plan to build new homes and schools while they stay in makeshift houses. The Lumads were grateful for the support of the international community.

Bern Jagunos of ICHRP-Canada, presented geopolitical analysis showing how conditions in the Philippines precipitated to the human rights violations towards the Lumads. Moreover, Jagunos gave the Canadian connection underlying the militarization of indigenous communities.

Foreign companies such as Canadian mining company TVI Pacific Ltd. covet the mineral and agricultural resources of Mindanao thus employing paramilitary forces to protect their overseas investments, Jagunos asserts.

 

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Bern Jagunos Shows how the current displacement of Lumad communities, arrests and extrajudicial killings of Lumad leaders are part of the Aquino government’s overall counterinsurgency program to facilitate the ruling state’s implementation of its economic and political programs that serve the interests of foreign corporations, particularly those in the extractive (e.g., mining) sector. (Photo by Viel Paulo Perida)

Asked on what actions can be done locally, Jagunos said international solidarity is important via information dissemination as well as parliamentary and extra-legal advocacy.

Thus far, an open letter addressed to the Philippine President was published in two mainstream newspapers in November. Prominent Canadian leaders were signatories including Perry Bellegarde the National Chief from the Assembly of First Nations and Grand Chief, Matthew Coon Come of Grand Council of Crees.

York University student Kim Abis pointed out healing from the trauma of colonization is necessary to build solidarity but it is also why building international solidarity is slow in indigenous populations.

“I see how passionate you all are regarding the issues facing the Lumad. I learned a lot by attending the event and will support as much as possible,” says Malaysian UofT graduate Shahzali Samah.

The organizers hope to echo the rising call to stop human rights violations towards the Lumads and shine light on the work that needs to be done to demilitarize indigenous communities.

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