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Catamco scores Makabayan bloc for snubbing ‘sham’ House hearing on lumad

/ 07:31 PM November 12, 2015

THE Makabayan bloc has snubbed the two-day consultation hearing led by North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco over the displacement of the indigenous peoples or lumad in Mindanao.

The House of Representatives Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples committee conducted a two-day consultation on Wednesday and Thursday. Catamco inhibited from chairing the hearing, having been accused by some lumads of discrimination.

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Serving as chair of the hearing, Anac IP Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr. said the Makabayan bloc and some militant organizations snubbed the hearing even though they were invited.

“Unfortunately, yung committee nagpadala ng imbitasyon sa ibang resource persons kaya lang di sila nakadalo kaya pansamantalang sinuspinde natin yung public hearing para mabigyan ng pagkakataon makapagpadala uli ng imbitasyon sa iba’t ibang organisasyon at grupo, kasama na rito yung mga ating kasamahan na mambabatas para talagang masala natin yung totoong nangyayari,” Panganiban said.

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In an interview after the hearing, committee chair Catamco said the Makabayan bloc is the one “discriminating” against the lumads for deliberately missing the chance to air their side on the issue, which pit the militant bloc against Catamco and indigenous peoples against the military.

“I think they’re the ones discriminating the hearing. I even inhibited myself to chair this hearing to give them their side also… We’re calling for them to sit down with the NGOs, civil society, and government to resolve the issue of the Lumads in a collective manner and we are telling them, gusto natin ng solusyon ’wag tayo mapapako sa akusasyon,” Catamco said.

She said the Makabayan bloc should instead use the House as a venue to air their grievances, instead of taking to the streets. The militant lawmakers were supportive of the lumads who are now in Manila for a camp-out and caravan calling on the administration to stop militarization in their communities.

Catamco figured in a word war with militant lawmakers Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate over a July 15 visit in the United Church of Christ Philippines-Haran compound in Davao city where some evacuated lumad or “bakwits” took shelter.

The militant lawmakers, who were in the visit, propagated a video of Catamco calling the lumads “stinky” cooped up in the evacuation center.  This earned the ire of some lumads who criticized Catamco for discrimination. Catamco, for her part, said she only wanted the lumads to return to their communities because of the dismal conditions in the evacuation center.

In a statement on Wednesday, Zarate said the Makabayan bloc would not attend the “sham” and “farcical hearing.”

“How can the lumad bakwits expect an impartial hearing in an atmosphere where Rep. Catamco is the principal accuser, witness and the judge rolled into one?” Zarate said.

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“We believe that this farcical hearing will not fairly represent the situation of the lumad bakwits. It is a ploy to whitewash, dilute and blur the issue of militarization and human rights violations that is driving the lumads away from their homes,” he added.

During the hearing, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Assistant Regional Director Rebecca Sta. Maria said the team visited the Haran compound and found it “deplorable.”

Some 700 lumads took shelter in Haran and fled their homes in Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and San Fernando in Bukidnon allegedly due to heavy militarization in their areas.

Sta. Maria said some lumads took shelter in makeshift houses under the trees, with 20 male and female lumads cooped up in one makeshift shelter.

“I have witnessed what is inside the Haran and the condition is deplorable… Inside the Haran, we were able to talk with them, some of them were sick, especially the children. When Congresswoman Catamco asked if they are willing to go back in their respective communities, they raised their hands and everybody clapped,” Sta. Maria said.

Sta. Maria said the lumad organizers aligned with the militant organizations refused to let the indigenous people leave the compound unless there is a dialogue.

The lumad leaders and Rep. Zarate attended the subsequent dialogue but the talk failed, with Zarate and the lumad walking out, Sta. Maria said.

When Panganiban asked about the “attitude” of  Zarate, Sta. Maria said: “What I know is that he supports the organizers. Isang tingin lang niya, mag-stop na sila magsalita.”

Sta. Maria said there was a rescue operation on July 23 which turned violent and resulted in the wounding of two policemen and 10 lumads.

She said a lumad family of four managed to escape during the rescue operation. A four-year-old child in the family was hospitalized and diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia, Sta. Maria added.

“Kung hindi nadala sa ospital ang bata, baka the following day patay na yung  bata… It’s a manifestation na talagang hindi maganda ‘yung environment sa loob,” Sta. Maria said.

Panganiban asked if she believes the indigenous peoples were deprived of their freedom in the Haran compound. Sta. Maria said: “Definitely… They were prevented to go home kasi sabi ng organizers, hindi na muna for as long as andun ang mga military, kaya we need to have a dialogue.”

Angelita Amista from DSWD Caraga said lumads have also evacuated from their communities in Surigao Del Sur, following the Sept. 1 murder of two lumad leaders and a school director in Sitio Han-ayan in Lianga, Amista said thousands of lumads took shelter in the Tandag sports complex and other nearby municipalities for fear of their lives after the murder of Emerito Samarca, the director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), and lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo by suspected paramilitary groups.

Samarca was found dead in a classroom, hogtied, stabbed and with his throat slit.

Amista said the lumads fled their communities in fear due to sightings of the Mahagat-Bagani group, an alleged paramilitary lumad group purportedly behind the killing in Alcadev. The military has denied harboring any lumad paramilitary group.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said the Alcadev, supposedly a privately operated school for lumad children rarely reached by government services, was used as a front to teach lumad children the communist ideology and make them members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“There were reports that the program of institution they were giving to children are not in line with the program prescribed by the Department of Education. Instead of teaching them about nationalism and responsible citizenship, they were taught instead to hate the government and sing a different national anthem,” Alejano said.

A lumad leader, Arumanen Datu Roldan Babelon, told the lawmakers his dismay that the indigenous peoples, primarily seen as the remnants of native Filipino culture, were politicized by practically all stakeholders – the military, NPA, politicians and even miners operating in their areas.

He said when the lumads were killed, the Filipino culture is killed with them.

“Nakakabahala na po sa amin na ang lumad, na siya pa ang may hawak ng kultura, (ay pinapatay). Kung pinapatay, paano na ang kulturang Pilipino?” the lumad leader said.

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