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October 14, 2016, Manila, the Philippines – A group of Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, are joining a protest in solidarity with 3,000 indigenous peoples from their country.
The protest, Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya, is being conducted on behalf of the indigenous peoples and national minorities and calls on President Rodrigo Duterte to put an end to the plunder and exploitation of the native lands and territories that had been prevalent before he took office.
Participants are setting up camp in Palma Hall at the University of the Philippines October 13-28, 2016, to raise awareness of their plight. The activists’ ultimate goal is to reclaim self-determination and liberation for their people, who have historically been marginalized.
Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Remedies Chapter Prioress, reported a positive beginning of the demonstration.
“Tribal leaders were welcomed at Palma Hall, University of the Philippines,” she wrote in an email. “Men and women came in their colorful native dress, cried out their lamentations due to the mining and land-grabbing problems on their ancestral lands perpetuated by foreign multinational corporations.” She said this plunder had been “allowed by the previous government leaders at the expense of the tribal peoples’ rights.”
The Remedies Chapter has sent contributions to help feed the participants, along with towels and blankets. In addition, several of the Sisters will attend the protest to show their solidarity with the native peoples.
The event began with a protest caravan from the major cities and provinces of the Mindanao Province October 8. The remaining itinerary includes an assembly of the Alliance of National Minorities; lobbying and dialogues at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Embassy, mining companies, and the Philippine Stock Exchange; cultural celebrations; a street tribunal against U.S. imperialism; and a send-off Mass.
The indigenous and minority peoples make up 15 to 20 percent of the Philippine population and include 153 ethnolinguistic groups. These groups have historically struggled against the invading regimes of Spain and the United States, which still has a military presence in the Philippines. In 1987, when the Philippine Constitution was written, the indigenous peoples pushed for “genuine regional autonomy” but have still suffered “decades of national oppression which accounts for our continuing [marginalization].”
Before President Duterte took office about 100 days ago, the Philippine government “deployed thousands of the Armed Forces … in communities of the Moro [minorities] and indigenous peoples,” according to a concept paper issued for Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya. The soldiers “have inundated the countryside where large-scale mining corporations and big agribusiness plantations and other extractive industries enjoy the armed protection of the state at the expense of peoples’ rights to their lands and territories.”
While the government has declared a ceasefire in the war against the indigenous and minority peoples, internally displaced communities that return to their lands find their rebuilding efforts to be “tenuous” because of the continued presence of the soldiers.
Many of the minority and indigenous peoples see hope since President Duterte has taken office because of his pronouncements calling for righting the injustices they have endured for years.
For more information about the protest and the situation in the Philippines, click here.
Feature photo: Tribal leaders of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines gather at Palma Hall, the University of the Philippines, to make known their plight.