A Catholic bishop in the southern Philippines questioned the government’s move to ban the use of the term “lumad” when referring to indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
“The state’s red scare campaign is now targeting even words,” said Archbishop Jose Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro.
The prelate was reacting to a resolution issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to ban the term “lumad” due to its supposed link to communist insurgents.
Archbishop Cabantan, a member of the Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said that it seems even words are not spared from “red-tagging.”
“Directly associating the word ‘lumad’ with [communist insurgents], as if this word was coined by the communist rebels, and consequently banning it from popular usage, is a total disservice to the history of the struggles of the indigenous peoples,” said the archbishop.
The NCIP has claimed that the term’s “emergence and continued use (are) marred by its association” with the rebels “whose ideologies are not consistent with the cultures, practices and beliefs” of the indigenous peoples.
Archbishop Cabantan, however, said it “furthest from the historical truth.”
“The NCIP’s resolution only reveals the commission members’ ignorance as to how the lumad struggles unfolded in Mindanao in the last 60 years,” he said.
He noted how the Cebuano word, which means indigenous or native, was actually borne out of the series of meetings between church groups and indigenous peoples communities since the 1970s.
“All they could have done was… to gather all published and unpublished books, articles in journals, and documentations from various sources so they could have known how ‘lumad,’ as a word referring to Mindanao’s [indigenous peoples], entered popular usage,” said Archbishop Cabantan.
The prelate called on the NCIP to reconsider its resolution and “not to be derailed in their mandate to serve the [indigenous peoples] of this country by engaging in actions that are only counter-productive and can only lead to fragmentations among our ranks.”