IBON statement on the New Bataan 5 massacre

March 1, 2022

by IBON Foundation

IBON condemns the brutal killings of volunteer Lumad school teachers Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo, community health worker Elgyn Balonga, and their two drivers. The group was travelling from New Bataan, Davao de Oro to Davao City when they were accosted or ambushed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The AFP’s 10th Infantry Division falsely claimed that they were New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas killed in a firefight.

This is just the latest incident of a paranoid state using armed violence against grassroots efforts to organize communities as the foundation of a more democratic society. The activists killed were not just providing education and health services to otherwise neglected Lumad communities – they were also supporting struggles against corporate encroachment on ancestral land and its attendant militarization. The two drivers were just helping transport them.

Volunteer school teacher Chad Booc was with the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and, when the students and their families were displaced by militarization, with the Bakwit schools set up in evacuation centers.

Bereft of social services, the ALCADEV school was built by the Lumad in Surigao del Sur as an assertion of their right to education. ALCADEV sits on the rich mineral lands of the Pantaron Range long- coveted by mining corporations. The Lumad have been attacked by state forces for defending ancestral lands that are targeted for government’s own development projects.

IBON and volunteer academics have been working with the teachers, students and communities of ALCADEV and other Lumad schools for years to develop curriculums appropriate to their circumstances. These build on traditional and indigenous agriculture, health, and other practices. We have also sought to learn from their rich experience in forging educational and community schemes aspiring for social justice and genuine sustainability. Academics from urban centers and development workers from abroad have seen what ALCADEV has built.

The story of ALCADEV is told in Lahutay: A Path to Sustainability which IBON published last year. Along with other teachers, Chad was a vital part of this entire process and not just from the title which he came up with.

He was generous with his insights about how education is a tool for Lumad community development and how ALCADEV’s practices can be replicated in similarly situated communities across Mindanao and the country. Their example also inspires across other varied contexts of struggles for development. He contributed illustrations and photos of the school’s daily life and struggles. He also proudly shared students’ artworks, anecdotes and quotes. These were all vital to bringing Lahutay to life and giving a glimpse into the richness of their collective struggles.

Chad dedicated himself to ALCADEV and its efforts to educate future generations of Lumad as they battle to nurture their ancestral lands and preserve their traditions while aspiring to real sustainable development. He often spoke of how he went to Lumad schools to teach but then also learned so much from the kids and the community. Living with the Lumad, he was enthralled by how everyone functioned as part of a whole and by how things were better done collectively rather than individualistically as he had been used to from his urban roots.

Chad wanted the Lahutay launch last year to be an opportunity to gather ALCADEV teachers, students, alumni and advocates, many of whom had not seen one another since intense militarization forced the school to close. He meant for the book to keep the wider ALCADEV community together for its higher aspirations.

IBON salutes volunteer teachers Chad and Jurain and community health worker Elgyn who gave their lives to supporting the Lumad struggle for self-determination and sustainable development. We condemn their brutal killing and of the drivers who were helping them. We demand justice for them and holding the military who killed them accountable.

We decry the government’s so-called anti-terrorism campaign which is being used to put down struggles to assert rights, social justice and development. This campaign is on the wrong side of history and will be defeated.