Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jenison Urikhimbam from Manipur, Northeast India after his visit in the Philippines in November 2017. Here, he writes about the various activities he was able to participate in during his stay in the country: the International Solidarity Conference to Resist US Imperialist-Led War and Build Just Peace organized by the the International League of People’s Struggle Asia-Pacific, parallel activities during the East Asia/ASEAN Summits organized by various civil society and people’s organizations, and the International Interfaith Humanitarian Mission organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.#
10th November, 2017: On the day of the arrival, I was able to attend the conference cum workshop on International Solidarity to Resist US Imperialist-Led War and Build Just Peace. People from various parts of the world had attended the program. It was the first time for me to attend a conference discussing the issues and impacts of US Imperialism. After digesting what the speakers have shared, I could further capture and understand the trend of suffering experienced by the people due to colonization and its impact. It was eye-opening for me to have been part of the discussion and I was also able to share some of the issues which we face in Manipur after the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in the North-East Region.
On the 11th of November, we attended the gathering for the 100 years of the October Revolution at the University of the Philippines. Representatives from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, India, and Africa had shared about their people’s struggle and how much the people’s struggle is important to combat the colonial forces globally. It was interesting to understand the dynamics of coming in of many financial institutions.
On the 12th of November, I have attended the discussion on Militarism and Development Cooperation proving the state of conflict and fragility in Asia-Pacific. It could be learned that there is a huge presence of USA troops across the world as there are 700-800 bases and wherever there are bases present, there are always violations of people’s rights including the right to self-determination. During the presentation, it was highlighted that there are many Fillipino-Americans serving in the US Army and are well-oriented in terms of Filipino culture, tradition, and others before they are deployed. Deploying people in their own country and controlling is one of the techniques used by the USA.
During the presentation, I have further learned about Development and Militarism tools, the counter insurgency field manual to fight the global war on terror. A guide to counter insurgency is well documented and consolidated by nine US governments agencies: defense, justice, treasury, home land security, agriculture, transportation, USAID, etc. It covers all the aspects. This guide has influenced the Government of the Philippines. The concept behind was introduced under the General Petraeus, the documents presents the formula and other needs at various levels.
The Asia Pacific Research Network presented on People’s Response and Resistance vs Militarism in Asia Pacific. It gave us the picture on how the people responded to ban the bases and how the movement to ban the US troops was mobilized in the Philippines, Henoko in Japan, and in South Korea. The protest against the Military Exercises in Philippines was also highlighted, as well as the Stop War Exercises and Start Peace Talk in South Korea, and the Boycott Divest Sanction Movement to end international support to Israel, etc.
During the discussion, Iwata from Japan, Kun OO from Myanmar, Amirah from Mindanao, and Rey Asis presented issues on:
• the impact of war on women and children, the impact on health, gender-based violence, displacement, etc.
• the impact on migrant workers; migrants are the target as they are cheap labor and the rights of migrant workers are limited in many aspects; and how this leads to violence
• the impact on the indigenous peoples; their lands are targets for extraction of natural resources by the multi-national corporations; and the existing conflict between the state actors and non-state actors like the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
• control of natural resources by the military and investors wherein the cutting of forest is illegal for the public but legal for the military and businesses
On the 13th of November, it was very encouraging to see a large number of young indigenous peoples coming out the street to shout and fight for their rights during the ASEAN Summit where many so-called leaders were present to discuss about their economic ties by neglecting what the people want.
The anger and hatred towards the imperialists due to suppression and suffering for many decades were expressed during the mass mobilization in Manila. Seeing such devoted participation by the people from across the country gives the impression that the imperialists will find it hard to gain control over the people so easily.
The systematic control over the crowd and organizing such a huge number of people democratically was highly appreciated.
On the 15th of November, we left for Mindanao to attend the International Interfaith Humanitarian Mission. After reaching Mindanao, we have gathered at a church where the dinner was served. We were warmly welcomed by Sis. Romena Pineda, Sis. Maria Luz, Fr. John, Mr. Peter Murphy of ICHRP, Ms Amirah among others and were briefed shortly about what we will be doing in the coming days.
The next day on the 16th of November, after the breakfast, we were briefed about the background of the existing scenario. Ms. Amirah highlighted that the population of Christians is 13 Million, Moro Population is 3.7 Million, Lumad Population is 2.1 Million, ARMM is 2.4 Million. As Mindanao is rich in natural resources, many multi-national corporations are after it and many illegal mining of Nickel is going on in some part of Languyan Island, Mindanao.
As she explained, it could be learned that the issues of the Moro are part of the peace talks. The issue of Moro is the self-determination and the term ‘Moro’ is Political and fighting for justice is their reason. As the term Moro is not accepted by others, there are many people who prefer to be called Muslim. Remaining speakers had also briefed us about the area of work which they have intervened. Later after the briefing, a Press Meet was conducted to kick off the Humanitarian Mission.
The participants were divided into groups and on the same day after lunch, we headed to the assigned places. Our team headed to the Iligan City where some of the IDPs are settled.
After reaching the place, we were all accommodated in a community hall. We were warmly welcomed by the local volunteers and the affected people. Some people are assigned to distribute the food and other relief materials while the others were taking the case history from the affected people.
My team got to interact with one Ms. Aliah Maladato, aged about 32 years, from Unayan Street, Marawi. She is a house wife living with 4 children. On the 23rd May 2017, during a crossfire between the so-called ISIS and the military started, none of her family members came out of the house till the 25th of May. On the 24th May, they heard a bombing very close to their house which made them decide to leave the place. In their family, there are 3 patients suffering from stroke which made it more difficult for them to manage and leave the house.
They took the road way and water way to reach the Tamparan Province as directed by her father-in-law. While her husband and the father-in-law were in the boat, they were followed by the military helicopter and fired several rounds, fortunately they were not hit by the bullets. After reaching Tamparan, due to scarcity of food, they were compelled to leave for Iligan City where they have rented a house and her husband sold fish in the market for their survival. We also learned that her family was informed about their house getting burned through Facebook by the local police and some neighbors.
On 17th of November, we had another fact-finding mission at the Refugees camp near the Conflict Sites. As per the interaction we had, I observe that the military are well deployed and made sure that the civilians are chased out completely from the Marawi Area as they have never heard about the formation or intervention by ISIS in Marawi area. They have been targeted systematically one by one by evacuating the house and made sure that all the family members are out of the Marawi area as the Military had used the helicopter to observe whether the people are out of the area or not. The interesting part is the evacuated empty houses are bombarded after knowing that not a single person is inside the house and there is someone assigned to inform the family members through the social Medias that their house has been bombarded.
The most interesting part is that the refugee camps were already waiting for the IDPs, it is clear that the conflict was already predicted by the state.
On the same day after the 2nd Fact Finding Visit, all the participants of the Humanitarian Mission joined a protest demonstration calling to stop bombing Marawi, stop destroying Mindanao, and to stop war.
On the 18th of November, a press meet was held to inform the public about the fact sheets which we have collected and to declare the future course of action with the information which was collected by the Mission Team. After the press meet, we headed for Davao.
On the way to Davao, we got to interact with the Lumad Communities led by Datu Evencio and learned about the struggle they have been though since their land have been occupied by the large scale planters. They have shared about the suppression that they have gone through like the killing, burning down of houses, massacres, etc.
We spent a night at the community where we learned that the large-scale planter has taken the land on lease for 25 years, however, even after the expiry of the lease, they continued to occupy the land and never returned the land to the owners.
The head man Datu Aldong, after long struggle, recovered 600 hectares of land and started taking care of the cultivation.
It could be noted that in Manipur, the government of Manipur is trying to lease out the agricultural land to the companies, and here we learned that leasing out the land in Manipur may face the similar instance on how the Lumad Communities are facing.
On 20th of November, 2018, I left Davao for Manila and visited Baguio.