Southern California Community Walk with Human Rights Defenders for Peace in the Philippines

For Immediate Release

April 30, 2017

Reference: Ryan Leano, NAFCON Southern California Regional Staff, (415) 779-5994, knowledge312@gmail.com

Southern California Community Walk with Human Rights Defenders for Peace in the Philippines

More than 120 participants from all over Southern California joined the peace tour delegates for Lakad 5K 4 Peace.

Los Angeles, CA – On April 29, 2017, more than 120 participants from all over Southern California ran and walked with human rights defenders from the Philippines during Lakad (Walk) 5K for Peace, a fundraiser led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON SoCal), Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network (KBKN) and International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP). They held the walk-a-thon to promote support for the ongoing peace talks, educate the community on the human rights situation in the Philippines, as well as to gather material support for human rights work and for indigenous schools in the Philippines. The walk-a-thon is the last event in the Southern California leg of the 2017 Just Peace Tour.

The fundraiser, hosted by La Cañada United Methodist Church, was able to raise more than $4,000 that will contribute to human rights work and Lumad schools in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Lumad is a term pertaining to non-Muslim, non-Christian indigenous groups in Mindanao. The 18 Lumad groups currently face issues of landgrabbing, environmental destruction and forced evacuation due to the presence of military in their towns.

A short program prior to the walk-a-thon was conducted to highlight the significance of the fundraiser, which coincided with various climate marches across the city. Dulphing Ogan, an indigenous leader from Mindanao, thanked the participants for supporting “the struggle of the Filipino people in the Philippines, and of course, the struggle of the Lumad for self-determination, for our ancestral land, schools, sustainable agriculture, and health program.” He adds, “since the government doesn’t do it, we do it by ourselves with some organizations and institutions who love the environment, indigenous people, and the remaining wealth in our country. They support these programs.” The United Nations has already acknowledged that indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their close relationship and dependence upon natural resources.

A closing program followed after all the participants crossed the finish line. Tinay Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan Alliance for the Advance of People’s Rights in Philippines, enjoined the audience in actively engaging in the peace process, saying, “let’s continue supporting the Lumad. Let us continue upholding and talking about human rights on Facebook accounts, in your community. Let’s initiate discussions inside the classroom or even in chat boxes on the peace talks–what is peace? And let’s get involved in other activities as well.” Amidst the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, peace negotiations between the Republic of the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDFP) have been taking place to address the 48-year civil war in the Philippines.

Atty. Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), is also the lawyer of Mary Jane Veloso, a migrant Filipino mother with a pending death sentence in Indonesia. Atty. Olalia linked the phenomenon of mass migration to poverty and underdevelopment in the Philippines. The NDFP proposals on socioeconomic reforms aim to address fundamental issues in agricultural land reform, building of industries, and social service provisions, among others.

Participants came from all walks of life to support the cause with some participating organizations bringing their own signs. Kevin Parducho, a graduate student from CSU Los Angeles, expressed his support saying, “we want to give a voice to those who don’t have a voice. We want to increase educational access for all,” pertaining to the Lumad schools.

The 2017 Just Peace Tour is organized nationally by the International Coalition for Human Rights, with support from legal, faith and other solidarity organizations. From April 18-May 8, the Peace Tour tours New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and St. Paul, MN.

For more on the tour, visit: www.humanrightsphilippines.net/events or #JustPeacePH.

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