Displaced lumad shun solon’s ‘rescue’ attempt
DAVAO CITY – North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco, who chairs the House committee on the indigenous peoples, said she was undeterred by Thursday’s apparent failure of her “rescue” plan for some 700 lumad that she had said were being forcefully held by militants here.
“There is always the next time,” she told reporters after none of the lumad Manobo evacuees from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon – who had been staying at the Haran House being run by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) on Father Selga here – went with her.
Early on Thursday, Catamco brought dozens of anti-riot policemen to Haran and a dozen buses to “fetch” the lumad evacuees but none of them had volunteered to come with her even after at least 10 of them were injured in a melee. They also rebuilt many of their shanties destroyed by the policemen after the raid.
“It is not a failure for me, there is no such thing as a failure,” she said, adding that one of her goals, which was to bring government service to them, had been fulfilled.
After the melee, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte sent in personnel from the city’s 911 unit and social workers to provide them services.
But Catamco also appeared to have softened on her position about the rescue of the lumad evacuees by saying she would not be forcing them to go home anymore.
She also pledged to look into their complaint of militarization of their villages, the same reason they used in coming to Haran.
Just on Wednesday, Catamco said she will get the lumad at any cost because they were being imprisoned by militants, who use them to pursue their anti-development agenda.
Her deed the previous days, including calling the lumad children stinky and the tribal leaders irresponsible prompted the evacuees to declare her persona non grata.
“It does not matter to me, I am not one of their members (UCCP), all I want is that the lumads will get out from Haran,” Catamco said.
The lumad’s anger at Catamco increased after the raid that scared children so much some of them had actually involuntarily peed.
Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate also condemned Thursday’s incident.
Beverly Sakongan Longid, chair of lumad group Katribu, said House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. should remove Catamco, a member of the Liberal Party, from her committee.
“The IPs had been violated much already. She should be held liable for yet again violation of the rights of the IPs, the fear, the trauma experienced by the children. If something bad happens to them, she should be made answerable,” Longid said.
Zarate described Thursday’s “unprovoked action” by the police and alleged militiamen as “not only a disrespect of the privacy and sanctity of the UCCP grounds but is also highly illegal and criminal as it was done without any warrant or court order.”
“This forcible 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 have sought refuge at the UCCP Haran,” Zarate said in a statement.
“Do you need truncheons and riot shields and a bunch of riot police to face an already abused sector? What we have witnessed was an excessive display of power against a powerless sector,” Sister Noime Degala of the Sisters Association of Mindanao said.
Datu Kailo Bontulan, a leader of the evacuees, said they had long wanted to go home but were being prevented by the presence of soldiers in their villages and military-backed anti-communist tribal warriors.
“We want to go home, but how can we go home if there are still soldiers and Alamara in our communities?” he said, adding that countless abuse had been experienced by IP communities.
Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said only those who want to go home can go with Catamco.
“But those who insist on staying here, can very well stay,” he said.
“Why can’t she get it? We cannot go home because of the presence of the military and Alamar,” Buntolan said.
“I don’t think they will really leave us alone,” Neling Sambag, who was clutching her eight-month-old child, said when told that Catamco had pledged not to carry a forcible rescue anymore.
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