Congressional aspirant Mocha Uson was accused anew of trying to pass a paramilitary group previously tagged in the deaths of Lumad leaders as themselves members of the indigenous community, specifically Lumads.
A protest on Monday, captured in a 30-minute video, was part of a program held in front of the Quezon Hall at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City.
Lumad (IP) leaders and IP Youth Leaders sa UP Diliman
Posted by MOCHA USON BLOG on Sunday, October 28, 2018
Uson in the video claimed that the leaders journeyed to Manila to voice out against the harassment and killings of the communist rebels in Mindanao.
An organization advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights, however, called out that one of the protesters was a member of the Mahagat-Bagani, an armed group linked to the deaths of IP leaders.
The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or Alcadev alleged that Uson also featured the same person in a previous video she posted on her Facebook blog.
UP students denounced the sudden appearance of Uson in the university premises. They noted that Uson has been criticized over the past two years for spreading false information on social media.
Uson, who worked as an assistant secretary at Malacañang’s communication office, hosted the assembly with tarpaulins and tribal music at the front steps of Quezon Hall on the state university’s campus.
She said she was informed of the group’s long trip from Mindanao to Manila that made her decide to help them with their supposed cause.
She also repeatedly referred to them as “legitimate” and not just Filipinos dressed in tribal clothing.
“Ang totoong Lumad at hindi iyong mga binibihisan lang at dinadala sa Maynila para mag-rally,” Uson said.
Alcadev on Facebook identified Jumar “Marcos” Bocales, leader of the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani group, as among those in the event Uson organized.
Student bodies and other human rights groups also condemned called out Uson for the move.
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The visuals in the half hour Facebook video are quite blurry. It’s difficult for other people not in the venue to pinpoint where Bocales was in the crowd.
Alcadev also did not specify in its statement if the rest of the group with Uson could be members of the supposed armed unit.
Last September, Alcadev and other Lumad organizations criticized Uson for including Bocales as among the representatives of IP groups in an interview.
A video of it was posted on her Facebook blog.
For Alcadev, the repeated use of false “tribal chiefs” is a form of “black propaganda” against the work of the IP rights advocates.
It cited the groups Mapasu or the Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation and the TRIFPSS or the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur as those protecting Lumad communities.
What is the Mahagat-Bagani?
Paramilitary unit Magahat-Bagani was linked to the massacre of Alcadev executive director Emerico Samarca and IP leaders Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo in September 2015.
Johnny Pimentel, then governor of Surigao del Sur, said that the Magahat-Bagani is composed of at least 30 heavily armed men.
Their presence in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin and Marihatag poses a persistent security risk to those who live there.
Their activities soon got out of hand, Pimentel said, but the military has not disbanded the unit.
For Alcadev, Bocales is just a self-proclaimed leader whose only objective is to get the Lumad’s ancestral land.
“Bocales who claims to be a tribal chieftain is proven to have the deliberate intent to sell our ancestral lands to the mining companies that continue to plunder the rich environmental resources of the Lumad,” Alcadev stated.
Despite being called out, Uson insisted on her blog that the people in the event she hosted were IP representatives. She even suggested that those criticizing her with her actions are communist supporters.
Lumads tell a different story
Lumad rights groups assert that, besides communist rebels, state-linked forces are among those committing human rights abuses.
In July 2017, Duterte threatened to bomb volunteer-run schools for IP communities with the perception that these institutions indoctrinate children into socialism, and toward the cause of the communist New People’s Army.
The IPs’ main objective of protecting ancestral lands against the entry of mining and foreign businesses happen to be similar to that of communists.
This fight over land makes these minorities vulnerable to being tagged as supposed members of the NPA.
Since the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, Alcadev, Mapasu, TRIFPSS and other organizations have reported on the military’s abuses and harassment of their women, children and teachers.