DAVAO CITY (Kalumaran/29 July) — On the 3rd day of the 10-day Philippine trip of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons Dr. Chaloka Beyani, almost a thousand Lumad evacuees from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and San Fernando, Bukidnon seeking refuge at the UCCP Haran Church in Davao City were illegally and forcibly dispersed by state forces.
Some 500 police men through the directive of Deputy Chief Officer Col. M. Pepino of the San Pedro Police District Station under the instigation of the current chairperson of the Congress Committee on National Cultural Communities and North Cotabato representative Nancy Catamco forced their way through the gates of the evacuation center.
The dispersal occurred as Beyani was set to conduct field visits in provinces after meeting with human rights groups and government agencies in Manila, including a representative of the Manobo evacuees.
KALUMARAN (Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao) denounces and condemns such inhumane and brutal response of the armed forces and the police to the persistence of the Lumads to stay in the evacuation center.
“The dispersal was a ‘blatant and desperate’ move by the government, as instigated by Rep.Nancy Catamco, aimed at concealing the longstanding mass evacuation of Lumads who are perennial targets of harassments, threats, sexual abuse and killings wrought by militarization,” Dulphing Ogan, KALUMARAN Secretary-General emphasized.
“Rep.Catamco’s ‘intention’ to send us back home without considering the pull-out of the military from our communities was preposterous, insensitive and selfish,” Ogan said.
“She knew that the reason of our evacuation was because of the military presence and forced recruitment of the Alamara in our communities yet she was insistent on sending us home on the time when the Special Rapporteur is in the country to conduct an investigation,” he added.
Five days before the arrival of Dr. Beyani in the Philippines, Rep. Catamco initiated a dialogue between the Lumad evacuees and leaders of organizations facilitating their temporary shelter but the talks turned sour when she showed up with Brigadier General Alexander Balutan of the 10th Infantry Division and Col. Harold Cabreros of the 1003rd Brigade whom the Lumads feared most because of harassments, threats and killings committed by the military.
Catamco then insulted the evacuees by calling them ‘stinky.’ This compelled the Lumad and support groups to walk out of the supposed dialogue.
Immediately after, Rep. Catamco promised during the AFP-PNP press conference to “rescue” all of the Lumads out from the evacuation center and send them back home, “by hook or by crook”.
“What ‘rescue’? It was clearly a violent dispersal,” Ogan criticized. “They said the government is concerned with the evacuees health. The national government has not given even a single sack of rice since day one of the evacuation,” he added.
Traumatized women and children, who hurriedly cramped inside a room to ensure their safety amid the mayhem happening outside, criticized the dispersal.
On the other hand, Kalumaran recognizes the intervention of the city government of Davao led by Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte who insisted that those who would want to go home shall be assisted and those who do not want to leave can stay in the evacuation center provided that sick children and old people would be treated by the city’s medical team. However, Vice Mayor Duterte did not promise the Lumads anything with regard to military pull-out as this matter is already out of his jurisdiction.
“The Manobos’ decision to stay or not is part of our indigenous right to self-determination. Catamco, the military, and police cannot impose it on us,” Ogan said.
Sgd. Dulphing Ogan