“Bakit pinapatay ang mga Lumad? Bakit pinapatay ang mga Lumad na kabataan? Bakit sa mga organisador nila o kapag nag-oorganisa sila sa kanilang hanay ay pinapatay sila?” Anakbayan Metro Manila organizer Benedict Macabenta lamented in an indignation protest on June 17 on the killing of three Lumad youth in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
[Why are the Lumad people being killed? Why are the Lumad youth being killed? Why are their organizers or when they organize their ranks they are being killed?]
Rights group Karapatan Caraga reported that three Lumad-Manobo individuals including a 12-year-old student had been killed by the soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) last Tuesday, June 15.
In their documentation, the military opened fire on a group of farmers in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon at Lianga, Surigao del Sur—three others survived the incident. The two females, Angel and Lenie Rivas, 12 and 38 years old respectively, were allegedly raped before they were killed, with their faces barely recognizable and genitalia torn apart. The other victim was their male cousin, Willy Rodriguez, 20.
The slain 12-year-old Lumad was a student of Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur or TRIFPSS, while Willy and Lenie were members of Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisong alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).
According to rights group Karapatan, the latest massacre is the 25th under President Rodrigo Duterte’s watch. This was the second massacre of Lumad in Lianga, the first one was in 2015.
Anakbayan Metro Manila, in their protest along Taft Avenue in Manila, decried the army’s narratives that the three killed were members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) and that they fought back and tried to detonate a bomb against the soldiers.
The group condemned how the narrative of “nanlaban” (fought back against police or military) oft-used during the Oplan Tokhang operations, discredited many times long ago, was again used in this incident. Tagging people organized in groups advocating their rights or passing off victims of killings by state elements in the countryside as members of the NPA killed in an encounter is another common police or military narrative that was also used in this incident.
Another protest on the incident echoed the same sentiments.
“Ginagamit itong excuse ng ‘nanlaban’ o NPA ng militar para pagtakpan ang kanilang ginawang kasalanan. Ito ay kanilang palabas para ikaila o makatakas sa pagiging accountable,” said Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save our Schools Network.
[The military is using the nanlaban or NPA excuse to cover up their wrongdoing.]
The group was created to campaign to defend Lumad alternative schools following closures, red-tagging and harassment from state elements since 2015.
Several youth-led protests were held in Quezon City and Manila to condemn the “Lianga 2” massacre.
In Quezon City, progressive youth groups also registered their indignation in front of the Commission on Human Rights to demand justice for the slain three Lumad-Manobo farmers and defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“Ganito kapasista, ganito kahayop ang mga militar. Hindi na nga nakuntento sa pagpaslang sa mga bata, may ulat pang nirape at tinorture ang dalawang babae bago pinaslang,” Valle said in the Quezon City protest.
[This is how fascist, how brutal is the military. Not only they were satisfied with killing the young individuals, but there are also reports of rape and torture before the two females were killed.]
Anakbayan Metro Manila recalled Duterte’s remarks in 2018 when he ordered soldiers to “shoot female rebels in the vagina.”
“This macho-feudal rule of law manifested into countless human rights violations both in the city and in countryside,” Anakbayan Metro Manila said in their statement.
Killing of a Lumad student, of Lumad school organizers
League of Filipino Students Metro Manila secretary-general Zedrick Eder lamented how a Lumad teen trying to get an education that has evaded her people was killed. This had to happen after several alternative Lumad schools had been ordered close by the government, following allegations they were NPA recruitment grounds.
“Sa katunayan ay Grade 6 si Angel sa isang paaralang Lumad na sapilitang ipinasara gawa ng patuloy na militarisasyon sa Surigao at napilitan siyang mag-aral sa ilalim ng pahirap at palpak na distance learning ng gobyerno,” Eder stressed.
[Angel was in fact a Grade 6 student in a Lumad school that was forcibly closed due to ongoing militarization in Surigao and she was forced to study in the cumbersome and failing distance learning system of government.]
Eder said that because of state neglect for the educational needs of indigenous peoples like the Lumad, alternative schools were established by and for indigenous peoples’ communities in response to their educational needs. One such educational institution is the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV). Their teacher and executive director and tribe leaders were those killed in the Lianga massacre in 2015.
ALCADEV was founded by Lumad organizations Kahugpungan sa mga Lumad sa Surigao del Sur (KALUNASS) and MAPASU in 2004.
Angel’s school, TRIFPPSS, is one of the 22 Lumad schools in Surigao del Sur that was forced to shut down. She reportedly enrolled in the Department of Education Alternative Learning System program during the lockdown.
SOS network documented nearly 215 closures of Lumad schools in Mindanao even at the height of COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdowns this 2020-2021.