By Erwin Mascariñas
SURIGAO City – A Manobo from Surigao del Sur was sworn in a third representative to the Lower House of Bayan Muna here Monday.
Eufemia Cullamat, a known environmentalist and human rights advocate, took her oath with a promise to bring the voice of indigenes and her environmental causes to the Lower House.
Cullamat, who is from Sitio Hanayan in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, said, “We have prevailed despite the circumstances that we have faced during the campaign period from the harassments and threats. Even if they have vilified and accused us of being supporters of the armed groups, we stood our ground and we will prove them wrong.”
Cullamat said she is thankful that many voters were not swayed and supported her group despite the “red-tagging and harrasments.”
“As lumad, we must push on our struggle and fight for our right for self-determination, to bring to the halls in Congress our voice,” she said.
Owano Acebido, a Manobo leader in Lianga, said indigenes have longed to see one of their own in Congress.
“We hope that through Eufemia, we will bring out our voice, the abuses and injustices, the constant struggle against what is supposed to be our right of self-determination, our right as people, our right as lumad,” said Acebido.
Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) said Cullamat has given indigenes here so much hope given their struggles.
“For years, the IPs (indigenous people) have been constantly harassed, threatened and pressured into giving up their ancestral lands, domains and their rights to self-determination,” said Villasanta.
In 2015, while at the wake of his father’s death, Cullamat along with several residents of her village witnessed the execution of her brother Dionel Campos and her uncle Juvello Sinzo, a tribal chieftain.