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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Liberation Day if Fast Approaching | The Many Faces of Oppression

Oppression has many faces and it is committed in various ways but nothing could beat that of a tribal community that had been coerced to live with cows.  How was that? Here is the story.  The worst of oppression happened in Panalsalan, Maramag, Bukidnon in the late ‘60s when a rich influential man holding a congressional position from a region in the Visayas turned the barrio (the name barangay came later) into a ranch.  He came one Christmas day in 1969, distributing “gifts” (P20 per family, P20 in the 60s is now worth P2,000). A month later, that powerful man came back with his armed cowboys, fencing the barrio with barb wires (about 6-feet high) claiming that those “gifts” were his payments for the land that he was transforming into a ranch. 
I personally had seen the terrible face of oppression as a young student leader and as the editor of our school organ then, publishing a feature article entitled, “ A Barrio in a Cage.” When that was published, the cowboys came, attacking me in the dorm with threats to kill me.
It was by all means a barrio with a chapel and an elementary school building, a barrio hall and hundreds of houses but was fenced like a “concentration camp.” So difficult to live with cows, I concluded then because cows would enter school premises and even would dirty the chapel.  Worse, cows were destroying cornfield and all other crops in the farms, to the detriment of the tribe’s livelihood who were then living in extreme poverty.  Every time they would throw stones at the cows to drive them away from eating their crops, they would be arrested, charged for “malicious mischief.”  In fact, 19 Manobos had to sleep in prison in Maramag  for shooing away the cows eating their corn in the  cornfield. 
So desperate a father had mixed poison (Thiodan) in the food of his family at dinnertime and when everyone was dead, he drank the remaining poison.  Going around the barrio, I saw a burnt house and was told that a man just burned his house to end it all.  That happened five decades ago but until now the picture of that barrio heavily fenced like a “concentration camp” is still vivid in the inner recesses of my thoughts, wondering if justice had been done to our oppressed Lumads in the hinterlands.  When I wrote about it, I was threatened.  In fact, I was arrested.  I remember, no less than Sen. Diokno and Sen. Tanada pleaded for my release.  Yes, red tagging is not only happening now. 
Yes, there is no “turning of barrio or barangay into ranch now;” but the new face of Lumad oppression is even worse: the transformation of the land, the choicest, into massive plantations, planting all kinds of fruits and palm oil, not for us, but to satisfy the consumerist and materialistic lifestyle of foreign people, far beyond their share of the world’s natural resources. In fact, there is tremendous commercialization of land now in Mindanao and our Indigenous Peoples are illegally deprived of their lands through corporate globalization. In cohort with powers-that-be, these choicest of lands are converted into plantations not only for fruits but bio-fuel, this time jeopardizing our food security and ecological integrity as toxic chemicals are massively applied.  Of the eight chemicals being used, be pesticides or herbicides, seven are already banned in other countries. In fact, based on my research, many of these Trans-National Corporations are banned to enter Puerto Rico for causing cancer to the Puerto Ricans.  Where did they go? Mindanao!
You want to know the many faces of oppression of our Indigenous Peoples?  Well, don’t you know that in the last 5 years, about 63 IP leaders have been murdered? For what? For resisting land grabbing of their ancestral domains as shown by my friend, Mr. Ceazar Soriano in his PTV4 Program, “AGAW LUPA, AGAW BUHAY.”  Tama na ang pang-aapi. Sila po as Tao hindi basura!
Look at our wily politicians especially those who dare to monopolize power through political dynasties. While our Fundamental Law prohibits political dynasties, the same cannot be translated into laws for the simple reason that such goes against their vested interest. I wonder how much of the outpourings of funds go to the pockets of these deceitful politicians, that is why some, if not many, were buying votes. Like vampires, they suck the country dry.  They make gargantuan raking from contracts on special projects or from cartels, corporations, or monopolies that they have given favors to. I know that there are laws legislated to advance their benefactor’s interest.
Well, if you are in control economically, you must also be in control politically.  So if you cannot run because politics is not your forte, better support a winning candidate who will protect your interest.  That is res ipsa loquitor. (The thing speaks for itself.) Many politicians were backed-up by big businesses and TNCs.
There are leaders who are posturing themselves as spiritual liberators, but when truly unmasked are nothing but perpetuators of colonial mentality that imprisons the poor people to a mind that makes them willing victims of oppression. How dare they use religion as a means of conquering the mind to a thinking that would make them forever poor.
Well, oppression is not alien to us Filipinos. For 400 years until 1946, our country had been an outright colony of imperial powers.  And since 1946, we have lived as a nation state, sovereign and independent but so under the overwhelming influence of highly developed countries that have been exploiting our natural resources. When the imperial powers ended that rule over us, the oligarchs have replaced them following the same structures of oppression and exploitation. That is called, Post Colonial Period where a new breed of colonialists rule. 
I firmly believe that liberation day is fast approaching against these many faces of oppression imposed upon our people.  Oppressors do not know that in the silence of those they have oppressed, the awakening process has already begun. True, there were those who have opted to leave the country to liberate themselves from poverty, from oppressive structures.  But the majority has decided to stay to fight for their dignity, for what is right and for what is just. QUO VADIS PINOY? FOR OPPRESSION OR FOR LIBERATION?!!! 

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