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Militant groups deny hostage taking of lumads in Davao City

 • 03:19 AM Fri Jul 24, 2015
Malu C. Manar
One of the IPs wasd wounded when DAvao City police forced their way inside the UCCP Haran compound. (Photo by Jane Maglunsod)

KIDAPAWAN CITY– Militant Bayan Muna party-list Representative Caloy Zarate has denied allegations that the progressive groups in Davao City held hostage inside a church compound the more than 1,200 lumads who evacuated from Talaingod, Davao del Norte and from other areas in Mindanao for alleged military abuses. Zarate said leaders of the evacuees had just employed security measures at Haran, a lot owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City, when they imposed strict recording of any evacuee who would enter and exit from the place. The congressman denied the accusation that the UCCP and their group used as concentration camp the Haran. For him, it was an ‘outright lie’ and ‘misleading’.He also called this as ‘vilification’ allegedly perpetrated by Cotabato 2nddistrict Representative Nancy Catamco, chair of the Committee on the Indigenous Peoples at the House of Representatives. Last week, Catamco held a dialogue inside Haran where he urged lumads to go back home. She also accused progressive groups like Bayan Muna, Karapatan, Gabriela, and other lumad groups as behind the ‘padlocking’ of the lumads inside the UCCP compound. Rescue lumads, live normally On Wednesday, Catamco held again a press briefing in Davao City where she said that by all means, they will ‘rescue’ the lumads from the alleged hostage taking. All I wanted was for these people to live a normal life.The Haran is not for them.They have their own house in Talaingod.But I saw, with my own eyes, that these lumads were held hostage and their movement became limited.They are just being used by progressive groups,” Catamco said. Deplorable, pathetic On Thursday, personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Department of Justice, PNP, and AFP personnel, all from Southern Mindanao (Region 11), arrived at Haran. Audrey Perez, IP in-charge at the DSWD-11, said he saw how deplorable or pathetic the situation of the lumads was, especially the children, inside Haran. The place is not conducive for learning for the children.It is the right of the children to education but in our assessment, this right has been exploited.It’s our appeal to the leaders of the evacuees to go back home and send their children back to school,” Perez said. He explained the lumads should not look at the military as their ‘enemies’, instead, they must consider them as peacekeeping forces. Free from military abuses But for Zarate, the evacuees have sought sanctuary at the UCCP compound to free themselves from military abuses. These evacuees were not affected by a natural disaster but a man-made calamity, that is, they were abused by the military.Some of their leaders were killed and others have continued to experience human rights violations, said Zarate. Perez, citing data he gathered from his sources, said there were at least four evacuees who committed suicide while inside the UCCP Haran. One of them, he said, was identified as Lolong who came from Bukidnon.Lolong, he added, wanted to go back home but was denied by their leaders. Lolong was so devastated so he committed suicide.I found out that his wife also killed herself,” according to Perez. ‘Death sentence’ Meantime, the Gabriela party-list group has strongly condemned the Philippine National Police and a para-military group to forcibly and violently evict the Lumads from the refuge given them by the UCCP Haran.” Forcing Lumads to go back to militarized communities is a death sentence. The Lumads cannot return to their ancestral lands for as long as the military insists on occupying their communities and schools.Sa sapilitang pagpapa-uwi sa mga Lumad, isinusubo sila sa tiyak na kapahamakan,” Gabriela Women’s Party Representative LuzIlagan said.Ilagan said the violence ensued after members of the PNP, AFP, and paramilitary group ALAMARA barged into the compound of the UCCP Haran reportedly at the bidding of Congresswoman Catamco. Lumad evacuees were forced to return home despite the continuing occupation of military forces in the area.At least 15 Lumad evacuees were reportedly injured, according to Ilagan. If Rep. 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,” Ilagan said.

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