Lumad evacuees in Surigao del Sur return home

As the lead agency in social protection, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) plays a significant role in assisting the more than 500 Lumad families who have returned to their villages after staying at the Tandag Gymnasium for a year.

On 01 September 2015, an estimated 730 families with 3,466 persons were forced to leave their homes and livelihood due to threats emanating from paramilitary groups such as Magahat/Bagani, and from continued militarization of their ancestral land.

The Lumads mass evacuation was triggered by the killing of two of their Lumad leaders, Dionel Campos and his cousin, Bello Sinzo, who were shot in broad daylight, in the presence of the whole community by Magahat/ Bagani members.

Also found dead that day was Emerito Samarca whose throat was slit from ear-to-ear. Samarca is the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Center (ALCADEV), a self-initiated school for the Lumads which has long been accused by the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani and the military as an NPA school.

According to the Lumads internally displaced persons (IDPs), on August 31, 2015, two days before the tragic death of the two lumad leaders and the educator from ALCADEV, the Magahat/Bagani Force and elements from the 36th IB encamped in the ALCADEV school compound threatened the school's faculty members, staff and community members that they will massacre the community if the people will not leave in two days.

"All efforts must be made to ensure and protect the security of the Lumads. It is not enough that they have been able to return to their communities: we have to remain vigilant against the resurgence of any threats," DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo stated.

The DSWD-Field Office Caraga, together with other government agencies, non-government and humanitarian organizations extended food and non-food assistance to the Lumads since September last year as augmentation support to the local government unit of Surigao del Sur to ensure that basic needs were provided to the evacuees.

Now that the Lumads are safely back home, the Department continues to assist them through programs such as Cash/Food-for-Work and Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA). The C/FFW with a recommended budget of P11 million will be implemented through the Sustainable Livelihood Program's Cash for Building Livelihood Assets (CBLA) for a maximum of 11 days per person while working or cultivating their agricultural land or any preparatory work for the livelihood endeavor most suitable to the IDPs.

DSWD-Caraga will also access the Lumads to ESA for the repair of their houses that were left unattended, and those that were burned down.

The Department is also prioritizing the education of Lumad children with the proposed construction of school buildings in Caraga region.

To date, DSWD-Caraga already provided a total of P5.8 million-worth of assistance to the Lumads in the form of food, non-food, burial, educational, transportation, medical, psycho-social processing, and establishment of child/women-friendly spaces.

"Patuloy na tutulungan ng Departamento ang mga kababayan nating Lumad upang makapagsimula silang muli at upang higit nilang mapaunlad ang kanilang lupaing ninuno ayon sa kanilang sariling pagpapasya. Suportahan natin ang kanilang paggigiit ng kanilang karapatang makabalik at mamuhay ng tahimik sa kanilang lupaing ninuno (The Department will continue to help our Lumad countrymen so they can start anew and to help them to develop their ancestral land according to their own choice and determination. Let us support their assertions of their right to return and lead normal lives in their ancestral land)," Secretary Taguiwalo said.

The ancestral lands of the Lumads are known to be rich in mineral deposits attracting interest from large mining companies.

Source: Philippine Information Agency

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