By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
MANILA — Be it under the scorching mid day sun or afternoon rainshowers, hundreds of Igorots who were among more than 3,000 strong national minorities marched from Blumentritt to Bonifacio Shrine calling for an end to Martial Law in Mindanao, to state fascism and development aggression on August 31 to mark the start of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2017.
National minorities from north to south trooped to Metro Manila to reiterate their demand for a stop to the bombings, militarization and mining plunder of their communities. They also reiterated their call for the respect and recognition of their right to self-determination and to their ancestral rights.
Joanna Cariño, a member of the council of elders of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said that Lakbayan 2017 is part of the national minorities’ continuing struggle for self-determination and just peace. She said that unlike last year, this Lakbayan 2017 national minorities are building a stronger unity among themselves and with other sectors against the Duterte administration that has unfolded into a fascist and pro-US government tool.
Cariño said that within Duterte’s first year, indigenous communities were bombed, indigenous leaders were killed while some were jailed for trumped up charges. She said that in Abra, forests were burned after government forces dropped phosphorus bombs.
According to CPA, Duterte’s all-out war policy resulted to a week of forced evacuation in Namal, Asipulo, Ifugao; indiscriminate air strikes using phosphorous bombs in Malibcong, Abra accompanied by ground troop operations of the 24th IB and militarization of communities by 503rd IB soldiers resulting to various human rights violations.
Cariño added that the plunder of indigenous territories continue as government allows the entry of large mining and energy extractive companies. She said that militarization is still the government’s response to indigenous people’s opposition to these desturctive projects.
Cariño told the participants to Lakbayan 2017 to prepare for three weeks of protests to show the President their indignation over the heightening attacks againts indigenous communities and people.
Windel Bolinget, CPA chairperson said the best weapon against fascism is the people’s unity. “We know from history and experience that no matter how fascist a government is, the people shall prevail if they are united just like the waters flowing in the river that will find its way to the wide powerful seas despite all obstacles thrown in its way,” he said.
Bolinget said that participants to Lakbayan 2017 through their unity, were able to prevail over checkpoints and other forms of harassment thrown at them along their way to Manila.
Bolinget said that Kaigorotan’s participation to Lakbayan 2017 comes from their collective aspiration for self-determination and just peace.
“Our fight for self-determination and just peace is not just for national minorities but for the entire Filipino nation as well,” Bolinget said.
The protest march ended in a short program at Mendiola. # nordis.net