Picture an 11-year old boy riding a motorbike behind his father on his way to school in the morning. On the way, they are ambushed from behind. The father is wounded but the son was killed instantly by a bullet. This is what happened to young Jordan Manda and his father Timuay Lorencio Manda in the morning of September 4 in Bayog town, Zamboanga peninsula, Mindanao. Jordan is but one of the hundreds of thousands of Filipino school children trekking to distant schools each day in rural Philippines in his case a five-kilometer distance from his home. But Jordan nurtured the dream of being like his father, a timuay (leader) of his own Subanen people or so his parents Timuay Lorencio and Delma were gearing him to be. That fatal shot ended all dreams for Jordan, his parents and the community they belonged.
In his message to an organization later, the older Manda said: “In my effort to assert our rights and to protect our people and ancestral domain, my beloved son was sacrificed. It is very painful and I thirst for justice. I vow to continue my struggle in order not to make my son’s death in vain. I need your support in this most trying time of my life as a father and a leader.”
Hear then the cry of a grieving father and leader. It is the wounded cry of the Barangay Captain of Barangay Conacon, Bayog. It is the cry of a leader whose cousin was killed in 2002 as both questioned the entry of logging and mining firms in their ancestral domain without their free, prior and informed consent. Hear the man in defense of his community which has eight mining permit applications, three approved mineral production sharing agreements, one approved exploration permit and numerous small-scale mining operations. Hear the man who dares unite his people against the onslaught of systematic destruction of life, property and patrimony in the name of capital and profit.
The death of young Jordan and the frustrated murder attempt on his father may never reach the limelight. Yet, to people aware of the struggle of indigenous people to protect not only themselves but also us from self-destruction in the long term, this latest assault on defenders of our patrimony increases the resolve to persevere.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has heard Timuay Manda’s cry. The death of his son and the attempt on his life are an abomination. Pray we must that this impunity come to an end and the ways of God’s justice sweep through this land. We mourn almost unconsolably over the killing of the child Jordan and grieve with his family.
But we cannot prevent the stones from crying out! May the National Commission on Indigenous People take lead in seeking justice for Jordan and his father. May the President of this Republic take to heart the plight of the “little ones”! May our partners here and across the seas harken to the cry of Timuay Manda and all indigenous peoples and help us demand accountability for this continuing impunity.
“Thou, O Lord art my hope, my trust… I have been as a portent to many; but thou art my strong refuge.” (Psalm 71:5, 7). Move me to proclaim that whoever “looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts shall be blessed…” (James 1:25)
THE MOST REVEREND EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA
Obispo Maximo 12,
Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Chairperson of NCCP
REV. REX RB REYES, JR.
September 5, 2012