Caught between the crossfire
Since former President Gloria Arroyo’s term in 2009 until now, Lumad killings have continued to prevail despite the urgent call for peace throughout the whole country, especially in Mindanao. Due to this inhumane ethnocide, the Lumads have long been living in fear and deprivation was a problem which is often heard in various multimedia but remains unsolved throughout the years.
The problem has also worsened with the continuous rise of death rates and evacuees. Attempts to alleviate the issue have been made, such as the promotion of awareness using the hashtag #StopLumadKillings on social media, but only a few people understand the entire situation. A harsh reality exists behind the hashtag: caught in a crossfire between the National People’s Army (NPA) and the military, the Lumads face a drastic drop in their number.
Most of the lands in Davao and Bukidnon which are owned and considered sacred by the Lumads, are rich in minerals and other resources. These are what mining companies and plantations are rooting for as an alleged leap towards development and expansions. The Lumads, however, disagree to this plan as they are forced to surrender their ancestral domain in exchange for a sum of money. Their ancestral domain serves as their home; without it, they have nowhere else to go. Thus, the insurgence against the military results to the killing of their fellow tribe members. Guaynon clarifies that the Lumads are not anti-development. What they want is a real development in which they can also benefit and stay in their own land. “Gusto lang man mi nga gawasnon ug malinawon ang pagpuyo sa mga lumad. Kana bitaw’ng makatabang sa katawhan nga development?” Guaynon opines.
He also explains that some Lumads have chosen to surrender to the military. One example is a Datu from Zamboanga who signed the memorandum that entrusted him 10% of the royalty tax. However, upon starting the operation, he stopped receiving his part of the truce. This is one of the reasons why the Lumads do not yield to the wishes of the military because they are not given what they deserve.
The Lumads, amidst their numerous losses, continue to seek for peace and justice. For them, the lands mean so much more than money and development. For many years, they have considered these lands as sacred homes they are willing to die for a concept foreign and incomprehensible to people of greed and wrath.