30 Lumad mothers give birth in evacuation center

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 December) — At least 30 Lumad mothers have given birth inside Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines where they sought refuge after fleeing their homes in April this year.

Over 700 Lumad evacuated from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces to escape alleged abuses by soldiers. They accused the military, among others, of converting their schools into camps and harassing residents accused of supporting the New People’s Army.

Jong Monzon, Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao secretary general confirmed the report in a phone interview on Monday. He said the mothers and their infants were in fine condition after delivery.

“Ang uban sa mga bata kay naa nay mga ngipon karon (Some of the babies have grown teeth now),” he said.

He said doctors and midwives from the City Healthy Office, Department of Health and Father Pops Foundation assisted in the deliveries.

He said they accept all medical support from well-meaning groups to ensure the health and safety of the Lumads, who fled their homes in Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte, and San Fernando, Bukidnon due to alleged militarization in their communities.

Monzon added the CHO holds medical mission every Tuesday while the DOH visits on Fridays to conduct check-up and distribute medicines to the evacuees inside Haran.

During Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw, Councilor Joselle Villafuerte, health committee chair, said all of their health professionals assigned to Haran are encouraged to respect the Lumad mothers should they wish to have their babies delivered based on their own culture and tradition.

“We don’t encourage that but we want to respect their culture,” she said.

She said the International Committee of the Red Cross, Davao Medical Regional Center, and Southern Philippines Medical Center have extended help to the Lumads in Haran in the area of health and sanitation.

She said toilets have been built and they are finding ways to improve the water supply system.

She added SPMC has put in place an assistance desk in Haran so that sick Lumads can be admitted to the institution even if they lack documents.

“This allows them to be admitted without any questions,” she said.

Last July, the Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Davao City Police Office carried out a so-called rescue operation in Haran but the Lumads resisted the authorities.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte provided 10 buses and 12 trucks to transport Lumads who wished to go back to their homes.

Pasaka-SMR chair Kerlan D. Fanaqel said the Lumads won’t return to the their homes unless the soldiers pull out and the paramilitary groups are disbanded.

In a press conference last week, Eastern Mindanao Command commander Maj. Gen. Rey Guerrero declared they won’t leave the areas as they are there to ensure peace and assist in the programs of other government agencies. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)