The year 1997 was supposedly a landmark year for indigenous peoples in the Philippines with the passage Republic Act (RA) 8371, or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA). Many hailed it as an enlightened law that will help ensure the self- determination of the indigenous peoples in the country.
The Indonesian government, it seems, does not give up quite so easily.
I want martial law declared in the Philippines because I want this nation to be great again.
Simply put, the right to self determination is the right of nations or peoples to freely determine their own political status with no foreign interference. Nations and peoples, by virtue of this right, are free to choose how they will be governed and who will govern them. They, and they alone, will determine how to allocate the resources within their defined territories. In exercising the right to self determination, intervention by foreign political powers is not necessary. What is far more important is for the nation or people exercising this right to be firm in wanting to exercise this right.
When Philippine President Benigno Aquino III assumed power in 2010, he promised to stop extrajudicial killings in the country. Six years later, with his term ending, he has yet to live up to his promise. Aquino won the presidency on an anti-corruption platform and a call for change and development. His mother, Corazon Aquino, was also the country’s president from 1986 to 1992. Aquino has been described by critics as an inept landlord president whose policies are elitist due to his insensitivity to the plights of his countrymen and women.
El Nino phenomenon hits Philippines. Drought ravages lumad (indigenous peoples) farms. Lumad farmers ask help from government. Government provides assistance to farmers. Farmers no longer hungry. Farmers plant for next year’s harvest. Farmers harvest rice. Everybody eats. They live happily ever after. End of story.
Except it didn’t exactly happen that way.
It is, indeed, April Fool’s Day.
At around 10 in the morning today, police and military personnel opened fire on more than five thousand protesting lumads (indigenous people) and farmers who have been blockading the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan City, Philippines since March 30. The lumads came under the banner of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (Apo Sandawa Unity of Lumads in Cotabato). Organizers have not yet come up with a body count, but reporters say at least one person died and around 20 others, including some children, were wounded.
As I recall, the Catholic Holy Week is a time of remembrance, contemplation and joy at the re-birth of a messiah who will save the world from inequality, injustice and destruction. I used to imagine fire, hail and brimstone raining down on all sinners who did not ask for forgiveness.
I have a very bright and inquisitive 16-year old nephew. He plans to graduate from high school two years from now (he was supposed to finish high school this year, but the new K12 program caught up with him), take a science-related course or music (he still hasn’t decided), and then take on the world with a relish only people his age have. I smile as I imagine what he can become.
And then I grieve. Not for my nephew. He has it practically made, lucky him.
Nakita ko ang karatulang ito sa paglalakad-lakad ko kanina sa campus ng University of the Philippines Diliman. Hindi ako magaling magsulat, sabi ko sa sarili ko, pero susubukin ko para lang masagot ang nakapaskil na karatulang ito.