No one can take respect away from us: Indigenous People (IP) leaders

SAN FRANCISCO, California – Regardless of whether one supports a group’s opinion or can’t stand it, respect is paramount.

For Datu Jake Lanes, of the Mandaya-Manobo tribe, it is ironic that in a democratic society that espouses right to voice own opinions, respect was not used rightly well when several militant Filipino Americans (Fil-Am) disrupted a forum at the Philippine Consulate General Office in San Francisco on July 10.

A Fil-Am member of the militant Bayan USA, along with several others, managed to enter the peaceful forum venue and started chanting “Stop spreading lies” while the discussion was about to wrap up.

“You can see some of our simple tribal leaders here while you have your technology. You are very articulate, But we have one thing – we have respect and you cannot take it from us. That is how we are raised, by simple parents, by our elders. We know how to respect people even with different opinions, contradicting opinions. That is how we are,” Lanes said.

He said they came to the US to tell their own stories and militants have your time to tell theirs because, for a long time, it is their negative narrative that the latter brought with their migration.

“I don’t know what is your problem with our government. I don’t speak for the government, I speak for my community because it is my brothers and sisters that are being killed,” he said.

Lanes, along with seven other indigenous people’s leaders are in the US for a speaking tour to break their silence on the deception and lies of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) – a terrorist-listed organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Look who’s talking

“Parating sinasabi ninyo napakasama namin, telling lies na parang sinasabing nagbibigay kami ng mga statement arbitrarily. Look who’s tagging here? (You always project us to be the bad guys and that we are telling lies like we issue statements arbitrarily),” he said. “We are only appealing to let us also tell our stories. Is that too hard? Do we need to be shouted upon?”

RESPECT. Datu Jake Lanes of the Mandaya-Manobo tribe says indigenous peoples are raised to respect others despite different opinions and contradicting opinions, during a forum at the Philippine Consulate General office in San Francisco on July 10. (PCOO photo by Mac Villarino)

IPs, he added, are logical and simple-minded people who are concerned about the financial support of non-government entities for a terrorist group that had been killing them in the Philippines.

“Every one of us, law-abiding citizens, should be opposing that terrorist group which has been declared by the US government and other counties in Europe,” he said. “Is that too much to ask?”

Lanes urged not to be called paramilitary because it is other IPs right to enlist as members of the military’s Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

“Can you also call the NPA terrorist because they have firearms but doesn’t have the legal right to use those guns?,” he said. “I don’t know what is your problem is with your government, but what we are saying here, please stop your wars in our land. Do not make our land a cursed land,” he added.

Lying where funds go

Lanes lamented that the groups lie about where the solicited funds are going because it doesn’t benefit the IP community at all.

There is already a Salugpungan (alternative learning center for IPs) group based in San Francisco, USA, which Lanes said solicit funds for programs masqueraded as “Adopt a student” or Adopt a school”.

“A dollar that goes to the Philippines means a bullet for our tribespeople. They teach our children radical ideas and instill hatred for the government. Around 60 percent of these solicited funds go to NPA,” he added.

“The one that is killed is not you. It is easy to espouse issues and become an activist. Yes, activism is not terrorism. It’s easy for you because you can go home. Us? We have nowhere to go, but witness death back home,” he told another militant group member who stayed behind while his companions were asked to leave the tension-filled room.

Lanes appealed to US-based militants to let the audience decide for themselves and discern what the truth is. (PNA)

By Gigie Arcilla / PNA