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This is what Indigenous people have been facing, pre-Anti-Terrorism Act

Despite vocal opposition, the Anti-Terrorism Act was signed into law on July 3, and the clock is ticking as there are less than 15 days left before the law takes effect.

We previously sat down with Atty. Romel Bagares, a professor of international law at the Lyceum Philippines University College of Law, and discussed some of our burning questions regarding the law, particularly how we can protect ourselves in a time of unease and uncertainty. 

Read more: We asked a lawyer all your questions about the Anti-Terrorism Act

Bagares, who was the former executive director of human rights advocacy group Centerlaw, pointed out something during our chat with him.

“You know, we should all worry for the poor and powerless—the Indigenous peoples in remote areas caught in the crossfire between government and rebels, or whose communities are being threatened by corporate interests,” he said.

For years, Indigenous people have been struggling to protect themselves and their rich ancestral lands from exploitation. It has however often fallen on deaf ears as the government continuously defends these initiatives, allowing corporations to develop these lands.

The Lumad in particular have been targeted in several counts of harassment, displacement and killings since 2015. Several Lumad schools were shut down by the Department of Education over “left-leaning ideologies.”

About a year ago, we had a chance to talk to a young Lumad named Rorelyn, who shared with us her story—was separated from her family, lived through the trauma of a school shooting and often had to run from armed men. 

Read more: The Lumad youth just want to go home, but violence won’t let them

Just recently, seven Lumad residents who were among those forcibly evacuated from their homes in Sitio Camansi, Misamis Oriental were arrested in a police raid for allegedly possessing illegal firearms and “subversive documents.” 

Even before the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act, this has been the plight of the Lumad. All of these unfold before a country where Indigenous people account for almost 20 percent of the population and a law protecting them exists.

“They will bear the brunt of this draconian imposition—which is why it is important that those who have the means should speak up for them,” Bagares reminded.


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