29 November 2018
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) joins various sectors in demanding the immediate release of indigenous Lumad school educator Meggie Nolasco, former lawmaker Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers Party-list representative France Castro, and an estimated 76 others who were illegally detained by the local police, the 56th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army, and its attached paramilitary group Alamara in Talaingod Town, Davao del Norte.
The Talaingod 79 included 29 students and 12 teachers of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Community Learning Center Inc. (STTLCI), where Nolasco, also a former environmental campaigner of Kalikasan PNE and training and community services officer of the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, serves as executive director. Ocampo and Castro, meanwhile, were part of a National Solidarity Mission (NSM) held in response to the increasingly repressive military crackdown targeting indigenous Lumad communities in the region.
The Talaingod Manobo are widely known as the staunch guardians of the Pantaron Mountain Range, a 12,600 square-kilometer mountain range that is home to one of the largest remaining virgin forests in the country and supplies the water of major rivers in Mindanao mainly the Mindanao River, Pulangi River, Davao River, Tagoloan River and major tributaries of Agusan River. The natural forests of the region play host to immeasurable biodiversity and links important breeding sites of the Philippine eagle at Mount Kitanglad and Mount Apo.
Lumad schools such as STTLCI serve as important foundations of the indigenous people’s environmental defense, as they teach the basic education curriculum as applied to sustainable agriculture and ecological conservation practices of their respective communities.
The Talaingod Manobo are being flushed out by the AFP and Alamara precisely because they continue to effectively oppose the entry of logging operations by Alsons and tens of thousands of hectares of mining applications by different companies.
In an atrocious move, the PNP has even threatened to file charges against the NSM participants instead of desisting from their wanton violation of the rights of the Talaingod Manobo people and their supporters.
This arrogant impunity by the police and military in Mindanao stems from the over-extended declaration of Martial Law over the island region. The blanket powers given to state security forces have been clearly abused to attack communities and activists resisting the land and natural resource grabs and other patently anti-people policies and programs of the Duterte regime.
The PNP should release these people immediately and its officials be held accountable for these people’s illegal detention and the trauma they inflicted upon the Talaingod 79, especially the children. The military must immediately be pulled out of Talaingod and the Alamara must be dismantled. We also demand the Duterte regime to immediately lift Martial Law in the island and desist from extending it any further.#