Lumads' Lakbayan calls on gov't to stop martial law in Mindanao

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) — Neither scorching heat nor pouring rain could stop minority groups and their supporters from marching to Mendiola - the closest that they can get to the government's seat of power.

These indigenous people from various parts of the country traveled miles for almost a week to reach Metro Manila.

And they say they will be staying there for the next 21 days to air their grievances on attacks against their communities and schools under the Duterte administration.

A statement from SANDUGO Moro Katutubo on Aug. 21 identified the killing of Roger Timboco, a member of the Farmer's Federation of Maco, Compostela Valley and the incident in October 2016 where protesters, including members of an alliance of Moro and indigenous peoples, clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

READ: Dozens of militants, policemen hurt in clash outside U.S. Embassy

They call this annual trek Lakbayan, the Lumads' journey from their communities to the city center.

This year, they're calling for martial law in Mindanao to be lifted.

The entire island has been under martial law since May when the Maute fighters attacked Marawi City.  It's not due to be lifted until December.

Maranaos like Mohaimen Disoma say living under martial law is really a struggle.

Disoma said, "Ang problema, ang lugar namin sa Marawi binobombahan pa rin. So anong ibig sabihin noon? Ayaw niya talaga tigilan."

[Translation: The problem is our place in Marawi is still being bombed. So what does that mean? They really don't want to stop.]

Disoma's mother died at the evacuation center in Saguiaran, Lanao Del Sur.

He says her death is proof of the unbearable condition of the overcrowded and unsanitary refugee sites where displaced Marawi families are forced to live.

And by the time the war ends, Disoma is afraid all his savings in the 11 years he worked abroad would be gone as airstrikes of the past 100 days have virtually wrecked every structure in the battle zone.

This father of one has this to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte: "Kung maaari lang, itigil niya ang pambobomba sa amin sa Marawi tapos sabihin niya na maaari kaming bumalik doon. Kung sino nasunugan sana puntahan niya. Tapos bigyan kami ng pantayo ng bahay."

[Translation: Please stop the bombings in Marawi and let us go back there. I hope he goes to visit people affected by fire. And if he could give us funds to build homes.]

Another evacuee, Sittie Rahma Asim, talks about how his children have been affected by the war.

Asim said, "Naging phobia na po nila, natatakot sila sa military. Pangalawa po, wala na silang ganang pumasok sa mga school dahil iba na ang mga school na pinapasukan nila. Dahil sirang-sira na ang mga school doon sa amin sa Marawi."

[Translation: They're afraid of the military. Second, they don't want to go to school because they will be going to different ones. Because the schools in Marawi are destroyed.]

The Lumads are also calling on the government and big companies to stop occupying and controlling their resource-rich ancestral land for mining and activities that they see as destructive.

According to SANDUGO Moro Katutubo, "About a hundred thousand hectares more of Moro territory and IP (indigenous people) ancestral territories are reserved for the expansion of oil palm plantations. Giant foreign mining corporations continue to eye over half a million hectares of ancestral land of national minorities throughout the country."

Organizers say they have a series of protests and fora in Metro Manila in the coming days.

And the culmination will be on September 21 - the 45th anniversary of  martial law.