Lumad leaders from Surigao province reported that paramilitary groups have attacked their schools and communities, forcing more than 2,000 people to leave their homes in the mountains and seek shelter in the city center. Many came from Lumad communities which have actively resisted the entry of mining companies.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), a government agency, described the violence against the Lumad as an attack on Philippine culture:
The NCCA recognizes these indigenous peoples and their leaders as the core and the backbone of the country’s intangible cultural heritage. They are the bearers of our unique artistic traditions. Their murder is the murder of our peoples’ soul. As the living transmitters of time-tested knowledge systems, skills and practices, to wound them is to damage the cultural basis for the sustainable development of our nation.
For several days in September, the Twitter hashtag #StopLumadKillings trended in the Philippines when Filipino netizens turned to social media to express their solidarity with the displaced Lumad. Below are some photos and memes showing support for the Lumad:
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) September 15, 2015
The #StopLumadKillings campaign has also reached other countries. Below are photos showing international solidarity for the Lumad:
The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst urged the military to end its occupation of some tribal schools:
Military occupation of civilian institutions and killing of civilians, particularly in places such as schools which should remain safe havens for children from this type of violence, are unacceptable, deplorable and contrary to international human rights and international humanitarian standards
For its part, the military has denied that it organized paramilitary groups to harass the Lumad communities. It insisted that tribal war was the cause of violence in the Lumad areas. But the governor of the province disputed this and accused the military of creating and arming the paramilitary groups. The Philippines senate has committed to investigating the issue.