PEACE IS A COMPELLING REASON!

A STATEMENT SUPPORTING THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ CALL FOR PEACE IN THEIR ANCESTRAL DOMAINS

“The Lumads are being killed in a war [that is] not of their own making.” -From a Mindanao Lumad leader

 

The New People’s Army (NPA) cancelled its ceasefire. In response, President Rodrigo R. Duterte cancelled the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) ceasefire. The President also cancelled the peace talks. He said that he is not ready to resume peace talks unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

 

We at the Ateneo de Davao University, together with our partners in community engagement and advocacy, believe that peace in itself is a compelling enough reason to continue the talks, especially since the cancellation of the ceasefire gravely affects the Lumad, the indigenous peoples in their ancestral domains.

 

The Lumad of Mindanao are innocent victims caught in the crossfire between armed groups, particularly the AFP and the NPA, which wage their war in territories held sacred by the indigenous peoples. The Lumad, especially women and children, flee the fighting only to suffer difficult conditions in evacuation centers. The destruction of their homes and their forced evacuation constitute collateral damage in these wars, and in some circumstances they are the direct targets of the hostilities.

 

This is NOT their war. The Lumad did not choose to engage in it and thus, should be living peacefully in their ancestral lands. The areas where the armed groups fight is the cradle of their life and culture. They are not party to this conflict. The Lumad are people of peace, yet they have been living with fear—living in fear. The war, which is not of their making, is costing them their lives.

 

Furthermore, the Lumad are also victims of paramilitary groups and armed security forces of corporate interests in their lands. Lumad leaders who courageously expressed outrage against intrusions have been threatened, harassed, and even killed. Their communities have been subjected to ‘development’ projects that run counter to their life-giving ways and practices. They suffer the consequences.

 

We thus support the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, which guarantees that the Lumad have the right to regulate the entry of migrants into their ancestral lands, without prejudice to those who have prior rights. The Lumad have the ability to determine the kind of development they want in their respective communities—in their ancestral domains.

 

In the name of peace for all Filipinos, especially for our Lumad brothers and sisters:
1. We urge all armed groups to pull out of Lumad communities and allow the Lumad to achieve the peace that they have been yearning for;

2. We call upon the President to stay the course of peace—to sustain the gains of the talks by going back to the negotiation table; and

3. We back the appeal of the indigenous peoples for their genuine participation in the peace process where their voices can be heard.

 

The AFP and NPA may have already declared war against each other. But for all of us who are stakeholders of peace, we cannot and should not wish for the resumption of hostilities, especially since the Lumad bear the brunt of war.

 

Peace is and should remain a just and worthy cause. Peace is not only the absence of war. Peace is social justice for the poor, the oppressed, the excluded, and the marginalized. Peace is the compelling reason to keep

 

Approved by the Ateneo de Davao University Board of Trustees on 15 February 2017.