DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 July) – The 700 Lumad “bakwits” who stayed at the UCCP’s Haran Evacuation Center here were not kidnapped nor illegally detained, according to human rights activists.
Jong Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao, told MindaNews that the Lumads voluntarily moved to Haran, an evacuation center run by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), in April 2015 due to militarization.
The statement came after the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 here issued warrants of arrest with no bail recommended against 15 human rights activists for kidnapping and illegal detention.
The accused included Rev. Jurie Jaime, Bayan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) secretary general Sheena Duazo, Karapatan SMR secretary general Hanimay Suazo, Ryan Laniba, Tony Salubre, Jimboy Maciano, Gabriela Davao secretary general Mary Ann Sapar, Jaja Encosio, Pedro Arnado, Pasaka SMR chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, Sr. Stella Matutina, Sr. Restita Miles, Isidro Andao, Kharlo Manano, and Save Our Schools (SOS) Network spokesperson Rius Valle.
Valle said that it was only on the last day of the peace forum called “Hugpong sa Kalinaw” at the Davao City Recreation Center (formerly Almendras Gym) on Tuesday that they learned of the arrest warrant.
Monzon, of the Mandaya tribe in Davao Oriental, said only about 300 Lumad evacuees, from the original 700 last year who came from Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and White Culaman in Bukidnon, are staying today at Haran.
He said as much as they want to return to their communities, they no longer feel safe due to the presence of military forces who allegedly were arming some of the Lumads and recruiting them to join a paramilitary group.
Monzon said Lumads are hopeful that President Rodrigo R. Duterte will be able to listen to their concerns and asked his help to drop all the alleged trumped-up charges, scrap the Mining Act of 1995, disband paramilitary groups, and pass the People’s Mining Bill.
He claimed that extractive mining activities displaced several Lumads from their homes.
The Lumads, Monzon claimed, are not totally opposed to mining but it should responsible mining that is done and benefited by the Filipinos, not by big multinational mining companies.
Pasaka deputy secretary Kailo Bontolan, a lumad from Talaingod in Davao del Norte, is hoping Duterte would heed their calls so that they can go home safely.
“I think Duterte is sincere in his words. He is also consistent in his pronouncements to help the people since the start of the campaign,” he said.
Bontolan said he would have harvested about 40 sacks of rice last year had he not left his home and his farm.
He said that he is hoping Duterte would help the Lumad “bakwits” in their livelihood as they no longer have the means to earn a living.