These were the exact words of President Duterte on July 24, 2017. Since then, there has been no let up in the attacks against the Lumad, most especially school children and their alternative learning centers that did not only provide knowledge but also help put food on their table. These schools built by the Lumad themselves with the support of Church groups aim to uplift the living conditions of the Lumad who have long been suffering from government neglect.
Under martial law, extrajudicial killings, forcible closure of the Lumad schools, red baiting of community leaders, teachers, and their students, among other gross human rights violations, intensified.
Worse, state security forces recruit community members to become their attack dogs. The Lumad are then pit against each other, bastardizing their rich culture and sense of community as paramilitary forces carry out the most atrocious human rights violations such as the infamous Lianga massacre on Sept. 1, 2015.
And so the recent illegal detention and the eventual filing of a trumped-up human trafficking case against former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, current ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, and many other human rights defenders and child rights advocates does not come as a surprise. Their arrest cannot be seen as separate from the long and arduous struggle of the Lumad in defense of their right to ancestral domain and right to self-determination.
The Lumad have been at the forefront of defending their land against big, foreign mining corporations, whose extractive activities threaten their very existence.
For the past years, they have been going to town in an effort to amplify their voices and gain the support of the broader ranks of people, both here and abroad.
Their struggle has created more than enough noise to earn the ire of the president who is incapable of tolerating the slightest political dissent and is further sliding down to the militarist path instead of addressing the roots of the armed conflict. Duterte’s actions benefit the ruling few and the foreign investors eyeing Lumad areas for their corporate interests.
And so the likes of Ocampo, Castro, and the rest who are charged of this yet another false and incredulous human trafficking case are depicted as evil who supposedly abuse school children, and branded as so-called terrorists.
But who is really bringing terror here? Obviously, the very same who threatened to bomb Lumad schools and his military and paramilitary carrying out such order.