On October 12, 2016, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat mayor Ambubacar “Bakre” Maulana, in collaboration with various government agencies and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) gathered the indigenous Dulangan Manobo people in barangays Kipunget and Dumolol in the guise of a meeting for the Pantawid Program ng Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) and Kalahi-CIDSS.
In this meeting, Maulana announced that the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (CLANS) was a front of the New People’s Army (NPA), and called for the closure of CLANS and the schools it administers. Maulana also offered a P5000 reward to anyone who can give him pictures of the teachers and staff of CLANS. Earlier in the day posters and statements vilifying CLANS and its personnel were hanged in the communities and given out to the Dulangan Manobo people.
For the record, CLANS is a non-government organization serving the Lumad of Mindanao recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). CLANS has a decade-long record of providing services to the Lumad through its one formal and 50 non-formal schools. Over 1000 Lumad children and youth avail of CLANS’ services. CLANS also assists the Lumad communities in their quest for self-determination.
The existence of the schools administered by CLANS in the Lumad communities is a concrete expression of the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples in the area. For decades the government has failed to provide basic social services to the Lumad and the Dulangan Manobo have opted to erect and run their own community schools. The Lumad requested the assistance of CLANS in the running of these schools.
The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network in the Philippines (ASCENT) strongly condemns the malicious actions by the local government unit under Maulana as well as the PMC and the PNP. These actions aim to red-tag and vilify CLANS and its personnel and, through fear and intimidation, prevent the Dulangan Manobo from availing the services provided by CLANS for Indigenous Peoples. These actions are attacks on the right of the Dulangan Manobo to self-determination. These acts are also a violation of human rights of development workers.
ASCENT is gravely concerned that these acts by the government and the military may be a prelude to greater violations of the rights of the Dulangan Manobo and CLANS personnel, similar to what happened to the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI), Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Learning Center, and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultrual and Livelihood Development(ALCADEV).
On September 2015, ALCADEV’s executive director and two community leaders from Lianga, Surigao Del Sur were murdered by the New Indigenous Peoples Army for Reforms (NIPAR), a paramilitary group that has close ties with the military. 2000 Lumad were subsequently forced to leave their lands due to this attack. MISFI and Salugpungan schools were also forcibly shut down by the military and their communities were militarized, displacing almost a thousand more Lumad from their ancestral homes.
ASCENT demands that the government and the military stop these malicious attacks on CLANS and its personnel. These attacks only serve to delay the services provided by CLANS to Indigenous Peoples in the area. ASCENT calls on the national government to rein in its military personnel and ensure the safety of the Lumad and development workers like CLANS’ staff. This so-called peace and development program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under Oplan Bayanihan has been proven in the past to be a tool used to commit human rights abuses, and ASCENT strongly believes that Oplan Bayanihan must be scrapped immediately.
Mayor Maulana and the local government officials must also be called to account for besmirching the good name of CLANS. Their actions served only to mire CLANS in controversy and have struck fear and worry among CLANS’ staff and the Lumad they serve.
Defend the Lumad’s right to education! Save Our Schools! Defend Peoples’ Projects! Stop Harassing Development Workers!
Renmin Crisanta Vizconde