UniversityPlight of Lumads, farmers highlighted in People’s Struggles Week
Plight of Lumads, farmers highlighted in People’s Struggles Week

Last November 5 to 17, One La Salle (OLS) for Human Rights and Democracy hosted People’s Struggles Week—an awareness campaign that touched on the plights of the Lumads, marginalized sectors, and other cultural minorities through forums, a candle lighting activity, and a rally. According to the organizers, one of the major goals of the event was to provide an avenue for people to be better informed about these issues.


Candle lighting

To kick off the campaign, students and members of youth partylists such as Anakbayan and Kabataan conducted a candle-lighting activity and demonstration in front of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

According to Raphael Michael Sale, member of the Kabataan Partylist, their objective was to express their condolences and to inform the public of the oppression toward farmers, workers, and Lumads. Sale stated that the ceremony was also done to recognize the deaths of victims who died under the alleged “all-out war” on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte, especially as he argued that the killings happening were perpetrated by the state.

In the demonstration, one of the key points addressed was the martial law imposed in Mindanao, saying that it strengthened the militarization in the region and resulted in casualties among farmers and Lumads. They also mentioned the displacement and attacks on Lumads who sought for self-determination and education due to the government’s interest in allowing mining corporations to build operations on their land.

The group also expressed their concerns toward minimum wage and contractualization, as they believe workers do not receive the necessary benefits while the state enforces violence against those who oppose them.



Forum on the Lumad situation

Last November 7, OLS invited Lumads to share their experiences through a forum as a means of informing DLSU students about what their people are going through. As members of the largest indigenous group in the Philippines, the Lumads narrated in the event the various human rights violations they were subjected to.

The forum began with a brief background of the Lumad situation in Mindanao. According to Marco*, one of the invited speakers, there is a Lumad school built as a safe haven and a means to guide Lumad children in reaching their goals that was founded near their homeland during the 1980s. There was a need for to establish the school because for the longest time, their tribe had been discriminated. Different human rights violations have been committed against them, the speaker shared, such as displacement, harassment, zoning, and false court cases, with the worst attack against them being the Surigao del Sur Lumad killings.
However, the attacks have increased since martial law was declared by President Duterte. On the contrary, the speaker claimed that martial law did not improve their state, and that it only caused Mindanao to be filled with Lumad evacuees.

Another speaker, a 15-year-old girl named Kat Kat*, shared her own personal story. She lamented that the area near their school was a “nightmare”, adding that it no longer felt safe because military personnel can enter the school anytime without permission. Often, soldiers would claim one of two things: that the school had drugs, or that the teacher is radicalizing the students, Kat Kat cited.

Another problem faced is the curfew and the violation of personal freedoms. According to Kat Kat, each person was given a limit of four hours of work each day, but as farmers, four hours is far from enough. If they were to break curfew, the soldiers would label them as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The invited Lumads believe that they are being hunted down because people want access to Mindanao’s natural resources. According to them, their greatest fear is that Mindanao will no longer be their home one day, and once that day comes, they will have nowhere to go, which is why they decided to come to Manila to share their story and prevent it from happening.


Agricultural crises

Last November 14, a Peasant Forum in partnership with Dalubhasaan ng mga Umuusbong na Mag-aaral ng Araling Pilipino was spearheaded by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Secretary Antonio Flores.

Through the said talk, Flores revealed how the rice crisis still exists in the Philippines despite the fact that it is an agricultural country. The KMP secretary focused on the most pressing issues that farmers face: lack of land, lack of agricultural machinery, and lack of subsidies.
He pointed out that farmers do not have the privilege of owning their land because they do not have access to the banks that pay out their subsidies. Aside from this, he added that they have limited access to decent agricultural machinery, which they can only rent from other providers, adding up to their costs.

Flores narrated that the agricultural minimum wage is supposed to be P380 a day, but in reality, farmers are only able to take around P150 home. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), however, has not agreed to increase the agricultural wage, despite it being insufficient for most farmers. Flores claimed that this is because DOLE is being controlled by landlords, as DOLE has refused to make an increase only because landlords do not agree with the proposal. “Hindi uunlad ang ating kalagayan sa agrikultura dahil hindi ito priority ng gobyerno,” he stated.  

(The current state of our agricultural sector will not improve because this is not a priority of the government.)

In spite of these prevailing issues, the KMP Secretary pleaded for House Bill No. 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill to take full effect, along with the salary increase for farmers, promulgation of free irrigation, and reduction of leasing costs for agricultural machinery and land.

*Names changed for anonymity.