Dear Mr. President,
In your exclusive meeting with the Inquirer editors and staff today, you were reported as responding to one of my tweets questioning your administration’s actions on the spate of killings in the lumad communities in Mindanao. The said killings have allegedly been perpetrated by the AFP and its para-military groups.
Here’s a transcript of your interview courtesy of friends in the Inquirer:
“Ms. Zamora: Sir, there’s another question. This is asked by Teddy Casiño and et al: “What is the government doing to stop the killing of Lumad in Mindanao?”
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Killing of Lumads?
Ms. Zamora: Lumads, yes.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: Baka I should talk to Teddy Casiño after this and asked him for the details of the same. There is no campaign to kill anybody in this country. There is a campaign to get after everybody who commits crimes regardless of who they are. And I think we have an adequate track record to show you the successes of people who have long been wanted that are already been apprehended and the process still continues.
Ms. Zamora: So there is no tribe that is targeted, like the Bagani group?
PRESIDENT AQUINO: There is no… Serving the people does not entail killing any of our citizens.”
Mr. President, I hope you were serious when you thought of talking to me. Just tell me when and where, I will drop everything to meet with you on this very urgent matter.
Just last month, I met with the lumad leaders who had taken refuge in the UCCP Haran Compound in Davao City and one of the things they specifically told me was to make sure to let you know about their plight. I explained that we weren’t exactly cozy with each other but that I would try to find a way. And then your statement about possibly meeting with me on their issue. My gosh, the heavens might just be listening.
Tell you what, if and when we do meet, please allow me to bring some of the lumad so they can personally tell you their experiences and sentiments. Pero sana tayo tayo lang so they can speak freely. They are your bosses, too.
Just in case you weren’t serious and no meeting pushes through, here are the details on the most recent cases of killings of lumads in Mindanao. Here is the link on the Surigao Sur incident, on the Bukidnon incident, and the Davao incident. The pattern is similar: lumad leaders and their families suspected of being NPA sympathizers gunned down in cold blood by suspected soldiers or para-military groups.
But more than the killings, I want the lumad to tell you why they are afraid of your soldiers and why they don’t mind the NPAs in their midst. Maybe as Commander in Chief of the AFP, it would be good feedback for you.
In any case, I shall be waiting for a positive reply. We might not be the best of friends but as former colleagues in the House, I hope we can still treat each other as former members of that old boys club. If not for old times sake then for the sake of the lumads of Mindanao.