Raps mulled vs solon for raid at Davao City center for Manobo evacuees
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) has started preparing charges against North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco forThursday’s raid at Haran House here that injured about 15 persons, a militant leader said Sunday.
Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao said aside from Catamco, charges were also being prepared against Supt. Marvin Pepino, the deputy city police chief; Senior Insp. Ronald Lim Lao, also of the city police; Maj. Jake Obligado of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom); and several others, who took part in the raid.
Catamco earlier described the raid as an effort to rescue some 700 Manobo lumads from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon, who were allegedly being forcibly held at Haran.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer learned that UCCP pastors met with a human rights lawyer on Friday to finalize the filing of the charges.
Suazo said Catamco and the others would be sued for serious physical injury, physical assault, destruction of property, trespassing, malicious mischief, coercion, grave threats and violation of domicile.
“We asked if they had any papers or warrant to justify their impending action. They presented none. We pleaded for them to leave, because the evacuees are harassed by their presence. In return, they destroyed the gate of the evacuation camp. They struck with their truncheons the lumad leaders and members of support groups who stood their ground,” Suazo added.
Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of the city police, earlier said on Thursday that the raid was carried out after the Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that women and children were being held inside Haran.
“The intention was to rescue children and women and (persons with disabilities) who were being forcibly held inside. We already have an implementation plan about this before but we need the documentation. Early this (Thursday) morning, the DSWD filed a (complaint) and we acted on it,” Driz told the Inquirer.
“We were there to rescue but there was resistance…there’s nothing weird about it (police response),” Driz said when asked how the violence started.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the “rescue” that Catamco had claimed was clearly mishandled, which was why it turned violent.
He also blasted Catamco, chair of the House committee on the indigenous peoples, for “overstepping into executive functions” when she insisted on hauling lumad evacuees staying at the Haran House.
The Manobo lumads from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon had been seeking refuge at the UCCP facility on Father Selga St. here since May, after fleeing what they said was the militarization of their villages.
The raid came a day after Catamco, during a press conference attended by military and police officials here, said she would force her way into Haran and “rescue” the lumads, whom she claimed, were being forced to stay at Haran by militants to pursue their anti-government agenda.
Even after Thursday’s raid, none of the lumads voluntarily went with Catamco, who had also brought in 12 buses.
Instead, they condemned her for allegedly harassing them.
“She’s irresponsible. She went there when she is only a member of Congress. She has nothing to do with the executive functions,” Duterte said on Friday evening.
He said instead of personally leading the efforts to bring back the Manobo lumads to their villages, Catamco should have referred the problem to competent authorities such as social workers.
“That’s what she did not get, she got lost in the distribution of power. You do not mess with the executive power,” Duterte said.
He then pointed to his temple and said: “The problem is, this is lacking.”
He said as a lawmaker, Catamco had no business forcing the lumads to go home even if she was the chair of the House committee on the indigenous peoples.
Also reacting to Catamco’s statement that he was being irresponsible when he said that all lumads staying at Haran were sympathizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), Duterte said he was just telling the lawmaker the “niceties of life.”
“That’s not irresponsibility. I am telling her the truth. That is the reality on the ground,” Duterte said.
He said he had known long ago that the issue of the evacuation was not just political but based on ideology as well, which was why he had not insisted that the lumads go home without their complaints addressed.
“She is the one who does not want to listen to reasons,” Duterte added.
Despite her failure to get the lumads to return to their villages, Catamco said earlier on Friday that she was not giving up.
“There is always the next time,” she told reporters.
“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.
When asked about the UCCP plan to sue her over the raid, Catamco said by phone Sunday: “That is their legal right and we will answer that in the proper forum.”
Catamco also asked the activists to help the lumads file charges against those allegedly responsible for their evacuation at Haran rather than complaining outside of the legal system.
She said she would assist them in the filing of charges against soldiers who were said to have raped some lumad women and those who committed other forms of abuses against them.
“But let us be specific. Let us not generalize the military. File charges against those who committed wrongdoings only,” Catamco said by phone.
She said she would be willing to investigate the alleged abuses committed by soldiers and the reported anti-communist militia, Alamara, in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon through an inquiry by her committee to establish the veracity of the claims of the lumads and their militant-backers.
“We will investigate and find out the truth,” Catamco said.
On UCCP’s claim that Haran was only assisting the evacuees by providing them sanctuary, Catamco said it should answer her question on whether the place was conducive for evacuation.
She said there was a joint circular issued by such agencies as the Department of Education, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Social Welfare and Development that has provided guidance on the management and conduct of evacuation.
“Has Haran conformed to this? Then why were women not provided private bath areas in the first place, which the joint circular prescribes? Why are the children getting sick?” Catamco asked.
On the elder Duterte’s claim she transgressed on executive powers, Catamco said she had talks with him before the “rescue” was carried out.
“I asked permission from him,” Catamco added.
(With a report from Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao)
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