DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 February) — Five Lumads were hurt when a fire gutted down on Thursday dawn a temporary shelter inside Haran Center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines where they have taken refuge since May 2015.
The initial investigation by San Pedro Police Station said five unidentified men burned the temporary shelter located near Gate 2 of the evacuation center.
UCCP Haran is located on Fr. Selga St., this city.
Two-year old Demon Manayab clings on to his mother while awaiting treatment in the makeshift clinic inside UCCP Haran compound, Padre Selga Street, Davao City on February 24, 2016. A fire broke at around at around 2 a.m. inside the compound where hundreds of indigenous peoples from the towns of Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Kitaotao, Bukidnon province are seeking refuge, injuring five, including the boy. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
The victims — Magno Kulot, 14; Odessa Dumol, 12; Elondia Dumol, 45; Loloy Manayab, 30; and son Demon, 2, are all from Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
Shortly after, another fire preceded by an explosion erupted at the second floor of the Gregorio Gonzales Dorm where students had stayed. It was put out at around 3:10 a.m, according to SF04 Dioscorro Baja Jr. of the Bureau of Fire Protection 11.
In a phone interview, Crestoni Latiban Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao, said some of the evacuees saw an unidentified person throw a lighted stick at the shelter.
He said that by morning they recovered a container outside Gate 2 and another one reportedly containing gasoline within the compound.
He said that after putting out the fire at the shelter, a tricycle driver told them another fire had erupted at the dormitory where over 20 college students and workers of the evacuation center stayed.
Nobody was hurt in the second fire but all of their belongings were destroyed, Monzon said.
He said they also noticed that at least two strings of the barbed wire fence at the back of the evacuation center were cut, allegedly by the perpetrators.
BFP-11 has yet to determine the cause of the explosion.
Damage to property was estimated at P900,000.
Witness Elisa Payta Fuentes, 27, a resident of 342 Father Selga St. said an unidentified man jumped out from the compound near Gate 2 before the fire incident.
Monzon said they had received threats from alleged paramilitary groups that they would burn the evacuation center even before the fire.
He said they have no other suspects in mind.
“If they had done that to us in the evacuation center, what more can they do to other Lumads whose communities are far from the reach of the media?” he said.
Some 700 Lumads from Brgy. White Kulaman, Kitaotao in Bukidnon and Kapalong and Talaingod towns in Davao del Norte have taken shelter inside Haran after leaving their homes in May 2015.
The Lumads fled due to alleged human rights violations by soldiers and paramilitary groups.
The military has denied supporting any paramilitary group.
In an email sent to MindaNews, the 10th Infantry Division said: “We are asking everyone to wait for the results of the investigation being conducted by the BFP on the fire in UCCP Haran before making any conclusion.”
The Lumads in Haran said they will not return to their homes unless the military pulled out from their communities. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)