Dear Colleagues, Networks, and Friends in the Indigenous and Human Rights Movement,
We are writing to ask solidarity support from you on behalf of the 35 Higaonon Lumad families (158 individuals) who were forced to flee their homes—for the sixth time since 2015—in Sitio Camansi in Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.
On May 26 this year, soldiers from the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) arrived and proceeded to encamp at their village. The Higaonon families eventually left their homes after soldiers repeatedly subjected them to threats, harassment and intimidation, maliciously accusing them as members or supporters of the armed group New People’s Army (NPA).
They travelled on foot to seek refuge in the nearby village. But even at the town center, the military followed them, threatening them that should they accept the help of NGOs, they would be arrested. Finally, the military gave them a deadline, saying that they would be forcefully returned to their community. They decided to leave the municipality, and eventually settled in front of the provincial capitol building in Cagayan de Oro City to bring to the attention of the government and the public their plight.
They have erected some tents with plastic sheets, not enough to cover them from the elements. With the rainy season now starting in the Philippines, the evacuees are in dire condition—relying only on the food provided by the provincial government and support groups. While many of the evacuees got sick because of their exposure to the urban environment they are not accustomed to, they are also unprotected to dangers. One Lumad girl was even nearly raped.
In a dialogue on June 8 with officials of the 58th IBPA mediated by the provincial government of Misamis Oriental, the soldiers refused the demands of the community to pull out from their village and cease the construction of the military’s detachment in their ancestral territory. A day after the dialogue, soldiers, in full battle gear, conducted exercises right in front of the evacuation area and took photos of them.
To bring out from isolation the fate of the concerned evacuees, we are humbly requesting you to issue a solidarity statement in support of the evacuees’ demand to demilitarize their community, to obtain their consent on whatever development plans the government is planning for their community, and to respect their right to a self-determined development. The copy of the displaced community’s statement is attached in this e-mail. Alternately, you can access it here: http://www.rmp-nmr.org/articles/2018/06/12/we-are-facing-difficult-time-has-forced-us-become-stronger
We would be glad if you can send us a copy of your statement that we can upload in our website, circulate in the local media and in the second-round of the dialogue scheduled on June 18.
Thank you very much, and we are hoping for your favorable response.
In solidarity with the Higaonon evacuees,
RMP-NMR Rural Poor Advocacy Work
RURAL MISSIONARIES OF THE PHILIPPINES-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), Inc
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