Thursday, September 15, 2011

Philippine indigenous tribes cry for justice

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 15, 2011) – An alliance of indigenous peoples in Mindanao called Kalumaran condemned the continuing harassment and killing of Lumad leaders in the southern Philippines.

It said Higaonon tribal leader Arpe Belayong, known in his tribe as Datu Lapugotan, was brutally murdered in June by members of a paramilitary group based in Agusan del Sur province. His relative, Solte Sal-ongan, a 21-year old deaf-mute, was also killed and her two children, Michelle, 14, and Adeb, 4, were also shot and wounded in the attack in Esperanza town.

“The situation is an utter disgrace and abandonment of avowed government duties, especially given that the Philippine government is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the group said.

It said prior to the killings, the militias also harassed members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in the town and shut down their school.

Belayong’s murder was believed connected to his opposition to large scale mining and illegal logging activities in the town, particularly in areas where there are large ancestral domain.

“For us Lumads, peace and development are rooted in the development of our culture and ancestral land. It is a great irony that those Lumad organizations and leaders who defend their ancestral lands are precisely the ones who are being threatened and killed,” a B’laan tribe leader Dulphing Ogan, who is also the head of the Kalumaran alliance.

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