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EU-supported project to protect thousands of Lumads in Mindanao

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Press Release 09 March 2015

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) will launch on March 10, 2015 the “Healing the Hurt Project” to promote the Mindanao indigenous communities’ social, economic and political rights. The activity will be held at the grounds of the RGS-abandoned hospital in the center of Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

The three-year project is supported by the European Union (EU) with a grant of €623,766.65 (around PhP31M). About 17,000 indigenous peoples (IPs) or Lumads from 43 communities in the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur stand to benefit from the project.

The project will contribute to the protection and strengthening of indigenous peoples’ traditional structures and community-based organizations. These organizations are at the forefront of the IP’s fight for access to ancestral domain and resources.

RMP-NMR head Sr. Ma. Famita Somogod, MSM, said that aggressive industrialization in Mindanao had led to intrusions by corporations into the IPs’ ancestral domains, which have led to their discrimination and sometimes outright violence.

In less than a decade, RMP-NMR, together with other human rights institutions, has documented several cases of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) of indigenous leaders. Of the more than 30 Lumads killed since June 2010, at least five of them are datus, the traditional leaders of indigenous communities. The killings have consequently led to the insecurity of thousands of indigenous families.

Jomorito Goaynon (Datu Imbanwag), chairperson of the Action-partner Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, said “the killing of a datu is a big blow to an indigenous community because the community depends on him on almost every aspect of the community life, from personal conflicts within families to feuds between clans.”

Additionally, more than a hundred other Lumad leaders are currently facing fabricated and malicious charges, hindering them from carrying out their human rights work because of pending warrants of arrest, subpoenas, and other form of judicial harassment and intimidation. Moreover, the present day insensitivity of institutions that promote the culture of chauvinism and discrimination results to xenophobia of the majority Filipinos against the Lumads that further leads to the perpetuation of rights violations against the latter.

The village of Balit is seen as the most appropriate setting for the start of the activities as it recently witnessed the killing of its leader, Datu Angis. Currently, more than a thousand individuals have sought sanctuary since they felt the insecurity of their areas after his death. The launching will double as a solidarity action with the evacuees and the bereaved family of Datu Angis.

Other project partners include IBON Foundation, the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, and the Community Based Health Services-Northern Mindanao.###

For reference:

Anjo Bacarisas
Media Officer, ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project T/F: +63 (63) 223 5179
E: info@rmp-nmr.org

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