DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 August) – At least 105 Manobos from 21 families have returned to their hometown in Talaingod, Davao del Norte on Sunday, despite the alleged ongoing “militarization and attacks on schools,” after six years of seeking sanctuary at the Haran Evacuation Center along Fr. Selga Street, Madapo Hills in Davao City, a human rights group said.
In a statement on Monday, the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations-Southern Mindanao (PASAKA) said the 21 Lumad families were the second of two batches who left the evacuation center, which is owned by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), since July.
Some 51 Lumads left Haran last July 25, a day before the final State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, mayor of Davao City for 22 years and the first Mindanawon President.
PASAKA said the Lumads were not prevented from leaving Haran, noting that some of them had even left the center long before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic started.
Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at, spokesperson of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, said in a press release issued by the group on Sunday that the Lumads decided to return home to defend the Pantaron Range, considered as the “last remaining biodiversity corridor in Mindanao” and the headwater of Pulangi, Lasang and Davao rivers.
The datu said his people will “face the military to assert their right to live, demand respect for their right over their ancestral home, particularly the Pantaron range where they farm and hunt to survive, and rebuild the schools destroyed by government forces.”
The group recognized that their return would not be easy because “in every sitio in Talaingod, a military detachment has been setup, which is a contrast to the absence of schools that were shut down by government forces due to red-tagging.”
“After years of campaigning to stop militarization and to reopen their schools, which drew nationwide and international support, the Manobos will take this struggle face-to-face with the soldiers and paramilitary that caused their adversity,” the group added.
In a press release on Sunday, the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said that the Lumads need to “undergo medical and psychological assessment” after being held for several years by “Haran organizers.”
“After being held against their will by Haran organizers, the victims were highly likely to have suffered and developed serious health and psychological trauma that urgently needs to be addressed,” the military said.
But the datu said they were thankful to the UCCP for taking the Lumads, who were displaced allegedly due to “militarization,” under its wing for at least half a decade.
The PASAKA lambasted the freezing of the bank accounts of UCCP Haran and the “trumped-up cases,” including the kidnapping charge against UCCP head Bishop Hamuel Tequis and other pastors.
“These cases should be dismissed because the bishop himself has shown compassion to the Lumads. They are charged just because we asked for their protection, and now they are being accused of things they are not guilty of,” Mansumuy-at said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)