A Voice for People Affected by Southern Philippines Conflict

Ongoing Man-Made Crisis. By Marvie Matura

A special narrowcast episode of the Radyo Tacloban Project in Cebu City has discussed the situation of Muslims and indigenous people in Mindanao 

who have been affected by the ongoing siege in Marawi City and the subsequent declaration of martial law over the whole island of Mindanao.

Settie Rahma Harim, who was displaced by the Marawi siege, told the program she and her family fled from their home when military airstrikes began.  She stayed in an evacuation center despite the dismal conditions and was forced to send her children to live with relatives. Because of the war, Rahma Harim lost her job and had to rely on donations from kind-hearted individuals and relatives, to survive each day.

“I only brought with me few clothes as I thought the war would end soon. I was wrong,” she said.

The war in Marawi City started in May after a military-initiated operation against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, following military reports that he was in the city (Hapilon is a Filipino Islamist militant affiliated with ISIS who is also known as ‘Abu Abdullah the Filipino’). Since then, firefights between the military and the ISIS-linked Maute group have been ongoing, with the Philippine Armed Forces launching airstrikes to clear the city of insurgents.

Rahma Harim is one of the delegates to the Lakbayan 2017 (People’s Journey) a nationwide four month-long event, organized by the national minorities (indigenous, Muslim and other marginalized ethnolinguistic groups) demand for an end to the militarization of their communities.  From Mindanao, the delegates traveled to Cebu City in central Philippines for a stop-over before heading to the capital Manila.

Fellow radio program resource persons Sarry Campos, Esel Libora and Julito Ofacan, are Lumad people, a southern Philippine native ethnic group. They talked about their resistance to big mining operations on their ancestral lands and accused giant mining companies of employing paramilitary forces that killed many Lumad who opposed them.

Campos is a student of a school for indigenous youth in the CARAGA region in the north-east of Mindanao, called the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV). She said their school and teachers are being accused of being rebels and said that there have been threats to bomb their school.

She recalled that on September 1, 2015, their executive director was brutally killed inside their school while their community leader was shot dead by the paramilitary in front of a crowd. See Amnesty International report.

The three also spoke against President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law. The radio program speakers demanded that the Duterte government end its aerial bombings of civilian communities and lift martial law in Mindanao.  They also called for the respect of their right to self-determination as indigenous peoples.

Photos of narrowcast with Lumads and Moro who traveled from Mindinao, by Jola Diones Mamangun.

Radyo Tacloban is a community radio project supported by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television in cooperation with Kodao Productions and Central Visayas Farmers Development, Inc. (FARDEC).