Letter | Brace ourselves for ‘Typhoon Noynoy’
December 6, 2014
Three years ago it was Sendong, then Pablo and Yolanda, now it’s Ruby. While a new super typhoon is getting closer to make a landfall in the Philippines, we, contingent of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, have already evacuated from our camp in Liwasang Bonifacio to different hospices offered by church people in Manila.
We don’t want to experience again the wrath brought by disasters as most of us are survivors of previous typhoons that hit Mindanao. More than 130 lakbayanis were typhoon Pablo survivors from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental while around 30 individuals came from Northern Mindanao who were affected by typhoon Sendong.
The Pablo and Sendong tragedies have haunted us since we have been experiencing evacuations way back home. We are victims of a twin disaster — natural calamities which are aggravated by the unabated destruction of the environment through large-scale mining and big logging operations, and man-made disaster brought by militarization in our communities.
Typhoon Sendong claimed 1,268 lives of our loved ones in Northern Mindanao while Pablo killed over 1,901 individuals in Southern Mindanao. Most of them were farmers and lumads. While taking the whip of evictions due to these calamities, the survivors are further deprived of their abodes due to intensified militarization.
Data gathered say that there are already more than 12 incidents of forcible evacuation of 39 Lumad communities in Mindanao, affecting more than 1,112 families with over 4,735 women, men and children in 2014. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ aerial bombings, artillery bombardments and strafing of homes and farms have also displaced thousands and killed civilians, including Moro residents during the infamous Zamboanga Siege.
With all these figures, the Aquino administration doesn’t learn. This is why we are here in Manila to bring to the broadest public’s attention our sufferings and struggles in Mindanao. As long as the government will remain sticking its bias to big foreign companies and continue its poor performance in relief and rehabilitation for disaster-affected areas, we would rather expect that Ruby just like other typhoons would again result to displacements and a large number of deaths.
Until now, hundreds of communities in Mindanao are still vulnerable to natural disasters due to the proliferation of large-scale extractive industries being promoted by Aquino through its existing government policies and programs such as the Mining Act of 1995.
We hold the Aquino administration and its capitalist masters as accountable for all the crimes they committed to all the victims of typhoons Pablo and Sendong. We also strongly demand for the termination of large-scale mining and other multinational operations and the scrapping of all the liberalization policies by the government as we demand reparations from these companies for all the victims or more aptly, their victims.
The Aquino administration has further committed a crime by intensifying its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan to pave the way for multinational companies and to suppress the growing resistance to it. Aquino has deployed 55 combat battalions of the AFP in Mindanao to protect the interest of foreign and local businessmen with its investment defense unit while recruiting lumads and other rural villagers to be part of their paramilitary groups.
We do not need to be met with bombs and guns. What we need from President Aquino is for him to make concrete actions to our legitimate demands. We are already in Manila for two weeks now but all we got were harassment and violent dispersal by the police armed with truncheons and nightsticks.
And for the nth time, we reiterate our demands to the Aquino government:
- Pull out military troops from schools and civilian public places in the community and prevent further AFP deployment to Mindanao.
- Stop the recruitment of armed paramilitary groups and disband existing ones. Investigate local warlords, private corporations and AFP battalions that provide logistical support and actively instigate the violation of human rights by these paramilitary groups.
- Dismiss Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) charges.
- Investigate and suspend the operations of notorious mining corporations for the environmental plunder and blatant violation of the comprehensive human rights of communities, organizations and individuals that are adversely affected by their operations.
- Immediately revoke Department of Education Memorandum Order 221.
- Pull out US troops in Mindanao and investigate US enclaves in military camps in Mindanao.
We have gone this far. The heavy rains, winds, and waves of water with mud brought by typhoons had tested our unity. The military’s bullets and bombs have made us stronger and more fearless to face sacrifices.
Even Hagupit nor typhoon Noynoy cannot stop us until we get what we deserve: justice.
Spokesperson, Manilakbayan ng Mindanao