Healing the Hurt: Unleashing Interfaith Initiatives to Combat Discrimination, Human Rights Violations, and Impunity Against the Lumads of Mindanao, Philippines.
Today, the “Healing the Hurt Project” was launched in the presence of the evacuees of Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur. The project is spearheaded by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region Inc., in partnership with the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao Inc., Ibon Foundation Inc., and Community Based Health Services – Northern Mindanao Region Inc., with the support of the European Union.
Over a thousand residents of 14 communities, mostly from the indigenous people of Banwaon, have evacuated toward an unfinished hospital in Barangay Balit. The evacuation that started in January 1, 2015 started due to the intensified militarization in the area disguised as the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD).
The evacuation was triggered by the murder of Balit Barangay Captain Necasio Precioso, Sr., a vocal leader against ancestral land-grabbing by mining companies, with military forces as instruments. The abandoned hospital was the only shelter available because the military and its deployed paramilitary forces have been following and harassing the community since they evacuated.
The exhausted residents were forced to live-off their 2×4 meter make-shift houses, cramped together in a field the size of four basketball courts. According to the Community Based Health Services Inc., clean water was inaccessible for nearly 2 weeks since the road toward the clean water was surrounded by soldiers. The result was the immediate outbreak of diarrhea, especially the children. Tuberculosis has been diagnosed among several patients. Signs of measles are seen in many. Food scarcity has caused the slow recovery of patients, even those that have gone under medication. Local government help has been minimal at this point such as supplying only a day’s worth of rice per week.
According to Atty. Beverly Longid, first nominee of Katribu Partylist, the “Healing the Hurt Project” project aims to create programs that would “protect and enhance capacities of Lumad communities that would allow them to combat discrimination on all levels from cultural, human rights, and economic matters”. They also called for justice for the victims of human rights violations and an end to the entry of large companies in their communities.
The event inspired the Banwaon to unite and continue their struggle against the occurring militarization of their communities in the name of land-grabbing. A promise of continuous solidarity among the represented indigenous peoples and organizations of Mindanao was sealed through speeches, prayers, cultural performances, and the Banwaon’s practice of tree planting during pacts.
At the end of the program, their chants roared through the entire campsite: “Yutang kabilin: Dipinsahan, Dipinsahan, Panalipdan”! (Lupang Ninuno: Depensahan, Depensahan, Ipaglaban!) ##