NORTH Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco’s objective to evict the lumads from their temporary shelter in Davao City Thursday morning failed as it was welcomed with an ovewhelming resistance from the people.
The lumads from the ‘militarized’ communities of Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon stood their ground despite the presence of dozens of policemen armed with truncheons and riot shields who forced themselves into the evacuation center inside the compound of UCCP. Catamco earlier said she only wanted to ‘rescue’ the IPs from their “inhumane condition” in the evacuation center.
As tension erupted, around 15 evacuees were hurt. The raid also disrupted the informal classes of over a hundred children in a makeshift classroom inside the evacuation center.
Datu Kailo Buntulan, an Ata-Manobo elder, said forcing them to go home is tantamount to leading them to their death.
“We want to go home, but how can we go home if there are still soldiers and Alamara in our communities?” he said.
The tension only fizzled out when Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte intervened.
“Those who want to go home can go home,” he said. “But those who insist on staying here, can very well stay.”
On Wednesday, Catamco warned that the evacuees will be forcibly brought back to their villages.
Buntulan slammed Catamco’s refusal to listen to them.
“Why can’t she get it? We cannot go home because of the presence of the military and Alamar,” he said. “Going home is like facing our own death.”
Sister Noime Degala of the Sisters Association of Mindanao lambasted what she called “brutal eviction.”
“Do you need truncheons and riot shields and a bunch of riot police to face an already abused sector?” Degala said. “What we have witnessed was an excessive display of power against a powerless sector.”
Beverly Sakongan Longid, Katribu national chairperson, said Catamco should be removed from her committee.
“The IPs have been violated much already,” she said. “She should be held liable for what yet again violation of the rights of the IPs, the fear, the trauma experienced by the children. If something bad happens to them, she should be made answerable.”
Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate also condemned Thursday’s incident.
“This unprovoked action by the police and members of the paramilitary group Alamara is not only a disrespect of the privacy and sanctity of the UCCP grounds but is also highly illegal and criminal as it was done without any warrant or court order,” Zarate said. “This forcibly entry is another blatant violation of the rights of the bakwits. The harassment, threats, killings, bombardments, and other human rights violations committed by state forces are the reason why these people have sought refuge at the UCCP Haran.”
Catamco, meanwhile, said she did not feel defeated.
“There is always a next time,” she said. | JMT, NewsDesk