By Michelle Co
Progressive group leaders challenged the youth to assume their role in the struggle for genuine national democracy in this year’s International Youth Solidarity Conference held yesterday at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
National minorities from all over the country attended the conference as part of this year’s Lakbayan, a protest caravan where members of national minorities travel to Manila to forward their demands to the government.
With a 3,000-strong contingent, this year’s Lakbayan marks the third consecutive time UP Diliman plays host to participating members of the national minorities.
Despite their continuous efforts, the members of the minority still struggle with problems such as plunder of land resources, displacement, human rights violations, neglect, impoverishment, and discrimination.
A Cordilleran youth in attendance mentioned that he joined Lakbayan 2017 because he sees the abuse inflicted on the national minorities and wants this to change.
He also wanted to shed light on the lack of basic social services such as the availability of hospitals and proper education, emphasizing that drop out rates are high due to their lack of resources.
The source also mentioned that minority groups in the Cordillera region face problems of militarization, the persecution of their leaders and land grabbing by private corporations. He cited an incident wherein a relative’s home was gunned due to their refusal to surrender the land over to a company.
Sandugo co-convenor and Cordillera Peoples Alliance Advisory council member Joanna Carino emphasized that though national minorities face various forms of oppression, self determination is the value they should assert to fight back.
“Ang hamon para sa inyong mga kabataang pambansang minorya ay aralin kung ano ba ang itong mga suliranin na kinakaharap ng ating mga pamayanan,” Carino said.
She then told them to actively seek social change, and to speak up against the oppressor in order to end the current system of injustice in the country.
“Should you stand in the sidelines allowing history to pass you by? Or should you try to make history which is the historical mission of the youth?,” she added.
Even after years of calling out state oppression, the national minorities persist in bringing their calls to the metro as they continue to face abuse, inequality, and discrimination.
For years, the indigenous and Moro people have experienced state sponsored oppression, which have displaced and killed thousands of these national minorities, according to human rights organization Karapatan.
Although laws like the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act exist, the discrimination of national minorities has yet to be quelled. National minorities have formed networks to strengthen their calls, an example of which is Sandugo, an alliance of national minorities around the country, which is also comprised of the Lakbayanis.
UP Diliman University Student Council (USC) Councilor and Anakbayan member Brian Black said he believes that the youth is essential in this struggle for social justice.
“The youth should be at the forefront of liberating society of its social ills. Equipped with an open mind and heart for service, an empowered youth is one that unites with the basic masses in order to materialize genuine social change,” he said.
Black also emphasized how the youth’s contribution to mass movements have led to success as noted by history.
“History has proven that when progressive and militant youth become one in the struggle of the farmers, workers, and toiling masses, oppressive regimes can be toppled down,” he said.
The Lakbayanis will camp in UP Diliman until Sept 21, symbolic of the 1972 Martial Law declaration and their calls to lift the martial rule in the island of Mindanao.