Lumads in Northern Mindanao deliver state of IP address

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/31 July) –Since President Benigno Simeon Aquino III was mum on the state of the indigenous peoples in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization here will hold its  own State of the Indigenous Peoples Address (SOPA) on Monday morning, August 1.

Jomorito Goaynon, chair of Kalumbay said they were utterly disappointed that the President did not mention anything on the indigenous peoples so “we have decided to put it upon us to let the people know about the state of our communities—if not the entire nation, at least in our locale.”

Kalumbay is a federation of indigenous peoples organizations from lumad communities in the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.

He said the major issue confronting their communities is the “continuous human rights violations that have resulted from the forced entry of extractive projects in our ancestral domains.”

Goaynon cited the recent attack on the family of Arpe Belayon,  a member of a Higaonon member-organization of Kalumba, in Linundigan, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur province by a paramilitary group Salakawan last June 30.

Belayong, known as Datu Lapugotan to fellow Lumads, was killed instantly along with the Lumad leader’s nephew, Solte. Their bodies have not been recovered, said Goaynon.

“He was among the community members who were against the entry of mining, logging and large scale plantations in their ancestral lands and was being driven off their lands by Laging Binsalan, one of the leaders of Sanlakawan, who is claiming the area to be his,” Goaynon said.

Datu Lapugotan was the younger brother of Datu Mampaagi who was also killed in 2009 by members of Task Force Gantangan – Bagani Force and the Bungkatol Liberation Front after he also declared that he does not support the operation of extractive activities in their lands.

“These events are not isolated cases in the struggle of the Indigenous Peoples for our lands,” Goaynon said.

In a separate phone interview, Bae Adelfa Belayong said they have opted to relocate their family members since their community is still under siege of the paramilitary group, Sanlakawan.

“We know that it is a painful to part with the land the families have been living on for generations. The best resistance is not often confrontational,” Belayong said.

Belayong, who also chairs the Madagway Babaeyon, a Lumad women’s organization, said their decision to relocate should not be understood as giving up their rights to settlement.

“But the women, who have been key to the decision of moving instead of launching a series of confrontations, are resolute that this is the best way to keep peace. It does not mean that they are withdrawing their resistance. They, together with the rest of our communities, will continue to expose the stench and brutality of the companies that continue to lure our fellow indigenous peoples to their beck and call,” she said.

In solidarity with the community, Madagway Babaeyon and Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, with support from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Philippines and the Ethnic Groups Development Resource Center (, will be conducting a pastoral visit also on August 1. The visit will include a relief mission, psychosocial therapy sessions and an interfaith solidarity program to help the victims cope from their experiences. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)