Hope for Lu­mads

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION -

LU­MAD is a Ce­buano word which an­thro­pol­o­gists use to re­fer to in­dige­nous peo­ples (Bagobo, T’boli, Tausug, etc.) of Min­danao. The lat­ter’s plight re­cently came to dis­turb­ing light when President Ro­drigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) threat­ened to bomb their schools for al­legedly breed­ing rebels.

With Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Jun Evasco, who worked with Lu­mads in a for­mer life, at his side I thought PRRD would know bet­ter than to make this threat. He and Evasco should know that most NPA and Mus­lim fighter-re­cruits come from the ru­ral poor (low­land farm­ers/fish­ers and up­land Lu­mads) be­cause this is the sec­tor that gov­ern­ment ne­glects the most.

Poor­est of all are the Lu­mads.

Hence, it is no sur­prise that both NPA and ISIS are re­cruit­ing fighters from their ranks. They’ve had it up to here with gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to is­sue Cer­tifi­cates of An­ces­tral Do­main Ti­tles (CADT) and to pro­vide them with their most fa­vored so­cial ser­vice which are fully-staffed and fully-equipped schools for their chil­dren.

Like low­lan­ders, Lu­mads also see ed­u­ca­tion as a way out of their mar­ginal ex­is­tence. But the prob­lem is that bud­get­ing for Lu­mad schools hugs the bot­tom of gov­ern­ment’s priorities. Lu­mads are mostly left to bayani­han-build their own schools and se­cure pri­vate lo­cal or for­eign op­er­at­ing funds through Non-gov­ern­men­tal Or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGO’s).

The big­gest ex­pense is teacher’s salary. Hence, these schools in the ab­sence of steady gov­ern­ment, and/ or in­ter­mit­tent pri­vate, fund­ing are open only when there are enough vol­un­teer teachers.

But the lack of vol­un­teers was starkly il­lus­trated at one time by this one Catholic priest’s numb re­sponse to the need: “Why should I work with up­land Lu­mads when I can earn P20,000 a month in a low­land par­ish?”

This is in stark con­trast to the ded­i­cated Isis and NPA vol­un­teers in some of these schools. They are the rea­son PRRD wants to bomb these schools.

Sec­re­tary Evasco should re­mind him that rebels are serv­ing Lu­mads there be­cause the gov­ern­ment is not. Be­sides, well-mean­ing folks are scared of the com­mu­nist bo­gey that so­ci­ety’s po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and even re­li­gious elite foist on them.

What hap­pened to me early on seems to be hap­pen­ing again. As a young ide­al­is­tic priest, I was just sin­cerely work­ing with low­land and Lu­mad farm­ers and fish­er­men teach­ing them their ba­sic rights yet soon I was in a mil­i­tary safe-house al­legedly for be­ing a com­mu­nist.

You do not stop Isis and NPA re­cruit­ment by bomb­ing Lu­mad schools.

The non-mil­i­tary so­lu­tion is to give them their CADT’s as bona fides and fully-equipped, fully manned schools as hope for a bet­ter fu­ture.

You bomb these schools and they’ll lose all hope and fight back with the fe­roc­ity of one who has noth­ing left to lose.

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