Groups call for immediate release of peasant leader, Lumad teacher in Mindanao

“In light of the closure of Lumad schools on the basis of unverified and malicious military reports, such [arrests] are indicative of incessant violations against indigenous and peasant communities.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Different groups assailed the recent arrests of a peasant leader and two Lumad volunteer teachers on Oct. 10 in Mindanao region.

The police arrested 68-year-old Virgilio “Ka Yoyong” Lincuna in Butuan City for alleged attempted murder which happened in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Lincuna is the chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-Caraga and Unyon sa mga Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN). He is also a member of the KMP National Council.

On the same day, Melissa Comiso, head of the Literacy and Numeracy Program of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)-Northern Mindanao, and another teacher were also arrested by police operatives in barangay Limaha, Butuan City. Both are detained at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group office in Butuan City.

Karapatan denounced their arrest and called for their immediate release. The group said the arrests of Lincuna and Comisa are part of the government’s crackdown against organizers, activists, and progressive leaders in Mindanao.

“These attacks have been aggravated and justified by State policies, foremost of which is the continuing martial law in Mindanao, intensified operations under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and Oplan Kapanatagan,” Karapatan said in a statement.

‘Lincuna, veteran of the progressive farmers’ movement’

The KMP-Caraga region said Lincuna is a veteran of the progressive farmers’ movement in the region. He is a farmer organizer since the 1980s and has led campaigns against plantations and mining operations as well as providing paralegal services to farmers victimized by human rights violations.

Caraga is a resource rich region and has been a constant target of investors for expansion of plantations such as palm and mining operations. The area has been militarized since peasants continue to resist the occupation of their land for business interests.

Danilo Ramos, KMP chairperson, said Lincuna led several peasant struggles in the region and gained victories such as increase in wages of farmworkers, an increase in palay and copra prices, lowering of land rent and interest rates.

Ramos said agrarian reform beneficiaries in Agusan Plantation Inc., Filipinas Palm Plantations Inc. in Agusan del Sur and Tubay Agricultural Center in Agusan del Norte are asserting their right and defending their position in almost 10,000 hectares of agricultural lands that are now under the control of plantation companies.

Clearly, Ramos said, this recent attack against Lincuna “is an attack on those who fight against land grabbing.”

Meanwhile, RMP said Comiso has been a long-time member of RMP and has managed a number of schools in the northern Mindanao.

“She has tirelessly sought to bring education to Lumad communities and work with her fellow Lumad and other advocates to achieve this goal,” RMP said in a statement.

According to RMP, Cosimo has been tagged as supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) because of her service to the Lumad children. She has also been receiving death threats through SMS and Messenger and was put under surveillance by alleged State forces, which prompted her to seek sanctuary.

“We call for the immediate release of Lincuna and the two Lumad teachers. In light of the closure of Lumad schools on the basis of unverified and malicious military reports, such are indicative of incessant violations against indigenous and peasant communities,” Karapatan said. ()

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