“The Lumads have sought refuge in UCCP after fleeing their villages that have been overrun by the military. Now the police are driving them away with brute force.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Partylist representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc in Congress today condemned the “illegal, violent and forcible entry” by Davao City police in the an evacuation center where Lumads have taken refuge to escape military operations in their communities since May.
The police action came days after North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco had insisted that the Lumads return to their communities, and claimed that the Makabayan lawmakers and progressive groups had “kidnapped and detained” the 700 evacuees in a “concentration camp,” referring to their sanctuary in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound in Davao City.
Catamco joined a fact-finding mission with Makabayan solons to probe the encampment by soldiers and the paramilitary group Alamara in Manobo communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. In a dialogue she initiated with the Lumad evacuees, Catamco brought in military officials to the UCCP compound, and told the Lumads to go home.
“This forcibly entry is another blatant violation of the rights of the bakwits. The harassment, threats, killings, bombardments, and other human rights violations committed by state forces are the reason why these people has sought refuge at the UCCP Haran,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
At least 15 Lumads and datus (chieftains) were hurt as they barricaded at the gate while police were trying to force their way in.
Classes for the Lumad students were disrupted, and some children cried in fear inside the UCCP center, as the confrontation happened.
“To force these bakwits to return home without assurance that the military, as well as the paramilitary forces like the military-backed Alamara, will pull-out of their communities, proves how little regard and respect, if at all, that the present government affords the Lumad,” Zarate said.
“We believe that this violent incident happened because of the instigation of the military. Meanwhile, the police and Rep. Catamco are parroting the same lies and twisted justification of the military. This gives us a glimpse of the violence, contempt, and disdain they experience from the military and the state’s mercenaries back home,” Zarate added.
“Forcing Lumads to go back to militarized communities is a death sentence,”said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.
“If Rep. Nancy Catamco wants to help the Lumads, then she should start forcing the military out of ancestral lands, along with all the mining equipment owned by multinationals that the AFP vowed to protect,” said Ilagan.
She cited the worsening attacks on indigenous peoples amid President Aquino’s endorsement of large-scale mining operations in the country. Under Aquino, 61 indigenous peoples have been killed, 46 of them were Mindanao Lumads who opposed mining, logging and agribusiness plantations in their ancestral lands.
“The Lumads want to go home but their lands have been transformed into killing fields under Aquino’s five-year rule,” Ilagan said.
“Who is ordering this brutal move? The Lumads have sought refuge in UCCP after fleeing their villages that have been overrun by the military. Now the police are driving them away with brute force,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, adding that the church should be respected as a neutral sanctuary.
“Instead of forcing the Lumad refugees to return to their villages, Davao authorities and the national government should first address the issue of militarization that has forced them to flee their ancestral lands. Internally-displaced persons already suffered too much. The police should not add to their worries,” Ridon said.