“We see no difference between the paramilitary groups and the Manila police who showed us the same brutality.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – “Lorainne,” a 14-year-old Tigwahanon from San Fernando, Bukidnon, still walks with a limp as she endures the contusion on her right thigh. She was one of the dozens hit by the rampaging police mobile in the violent dispersal in front of the US embassy on Oct. 19.
“We ran to our jeep, but the police chased after us,” Lorainne told Bulatlat. She and another Lumad teenage girl, 13-year-old “Lorejane,” four Lumád women and the driver of the jeepney were among the 31 rallyists arrested and brought to the Manila Police District Station 5. Police later released all detainees on recognizance.
But it was not the first time for Lorainne to witness, suffer, and prevail over a violent experience. On July 30, Lorainne was hit by a shrapnel in her right foot when the notorious paramilitary group, Nipar, opened fire on a wedding party in Kawayan village, San Fernando.
Alde “Butsoy” Salusad, a Lumád paramilitary with a warrant of arrest for murder, led the gunmen who shot at the community from a nearby hill. Killed was pregnant woman Makinit Gayoran, while seven people were wounded, five of whom were children, including Dumala.
Like Lorainne and Lorejane, many of the protesters at the US embassy — who were teargassed, mauled and mowed down by police to save face after the US embassy seal was defaced – were victims of similar human rights violations committed by soldiers and paramilitary groups who target their communities, as they opposed the destructive plunder of their ancestral lands by big, extractive companies and projects.
The police brutality only highlighted the state force’s subservience to America, and the oppression of the protesting indigenous peoples and Moro – the same oppression and discrimination that they have endured and prevailed over for centuries: from Spanish and American colonizers, up to the modern-day state and its police and armed forces.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Lorainne and Lorejane recalled how the police at the station asked their names, their parents and residence.
“Police asked why we went to Manila. We explained that we want Butsoy to leave our community, that we want to return home, that we want to go back to school. But we can’t, as long as Butsoy is there,” said Lorejane.
Lorainne and Lorejane are grade 4 students of Nabok Elementary School in Kawayan village, but had to stop schooling. Pilong said that after the July 30 attack by Nipar, their families joined 48 other families, or 184 people, who evacuated from Kawayan village. They have camped out in front of the Bukidnon provincial capitol in Malaybalay City, for almost three months now, demanding that the provincial government act on dismantling Nipar and holding Salusad accountable for his crimes.
The Tigwahanon evacuees, however, did not get any sympathy from Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, who called them “fake bakwets,” told them to return home and threatened to demolish their evacuation site because it was “soiling the capitol.”
Police acted like the uneducated, criminal paramilitary thugs
Higaonon Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Northern Mindanao, said the Lumád paramilitary groups who attack communities are uneducated, village thugs recruited by the military to do their dirty work. They did not expect to get the same ruthlessness from the police in Metro Manila, who were college-educated, and claim to “serve and protect” the people.
“We did not expect what happened…now, we see no difference between the paramilitary groups and the Manila police who showed us the same brutality,” he said, at the Oct. 20 press conference of the Kilusan ng Moro at Mamamayang Katutubo para sa Sariling Pagpapasya, or Sandugo. Goaynon is one of the Sandugo lead conveners.
Like salt to their wounds, the 11 seriously injured protesters whom police brought to the hospital were practically arrested, like Piya Macliing Malayao, Sandugo spokesperson whose leg was ran over by the police mobile. Malayao remained under tight police watch at the Philippine General Hospital until she was discharged on Oct. 20.
Among those arrested had minor injuries like Lorainne and Lorejane, but had to wait to be released from MPD station 5 before getting their wounds checked.
Dr. Julie Caguiat, executive director of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed), who was among the five medics arrested while giving first aid to the injured, said the Manila Police personnel even made chauvinist jokes about the arrested indigenous peoples.
“Maybe we should first give them a bath. They look like they need one,” a police man said, while others laughed. Caguiat lamented that it showed how the police look down on the national minority and demean their rights.
“They should not be pushed aside, as if they were just objects,” she said.
Amirah Lidasan, Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson, said she felt so angry at the police men: “Any driver would stop his vehicle to avoid running over an animal…They treated us even lower than animals.”
Discriminated, minoritized, oppressed
Sandugo alliance was launched last week as part of the national minorities’ struggle against national oppression and institutionalized discrimination. The Sandugo rally at the US embassy supported President Duterte’s push for an independent foreign policy, even as they called for an end to unequal PH-US defense agreements and the domination of big, American businesses in the country, many of which have extractive projects encroaching on ancestral territories.
At the Oct. 19 rally, Sandugo leaders echoed Duterte’s criticisms against the US atrocities in history, which killed thousands of Moro and indigenous peoples who resisted the American colonizers. Such atrocities continue as they have resisted American hegemony, preserved their culture and became the national minority.
Sonny Serrano, secretary general of the Central Luzon Ayta Association (Claa), spoke at the rally about how the PH-US war games under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) brought hunger to the Aytas in Tarlac province, who were prohibited from going to their swidden farms or to hunt in the forests, because these were being used as firing range by Filipino and US troops.
Serrano also cited cases during the time of the US military bases, when scavenging Aytas were shot dead by American soldiers, who claimed they mistook them for wild pigs.
Josephine Pagalan of Kasalo-Caraga, lambasted how the Manila Police “acted like loyal servants” of the US embassy. “It goes to show that these Filipino police do not serve the Filipino people, but are lapdogs of the US,” she said.
(Post updated Oct. 27, 2016)