DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte expressed displeasure over North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco’s ‘disrespect’ for the local government when she headed the violent attempted eviction of displaced indigenous people from their temporary shelter Thursday.
At least 15 people were wounded when police, armed with truncheons and riot shield, forced themselves into the compound of UCCP Haran where the evacuees have been staying since May.
Duterte said Catamco did not have the authority to carry out the eviction.
“She is only a member of Congress. She is a legislator. She has nothing to do with the executive power,” Duterte said.
Earlier, his son, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said Catamco must respect the desire of the IPs and listen to what they want.
The IPs have always expressed their will to go home, but only after soldiers are pulled out from their villages. They also want the paramilitary group Alamara to be disarmed. They accused the soldiers and members of Alamara of harassing them as they are suspected of being sympathizers or supporters of the New People’s Army.
Mayor Duterte questioned the authority of Catamco to evict the IPs. He said Catamco stepped into a function that is not within her powers.
“This is because she is irresponsible,” Duterte said.
“Kulang, eh (she lacks this),” added the mayor, his fingers pointed to his head. He apparently meant that Catamco was dumb. “She is irresponsible and she was the one who refused to listen to reason.”
Another thing that Catamco must learn, the mayor said, is the “niceties of life.”
He questioned Catamco’s motives behind her insistence to evict the around 700 indigenous people from the provinces of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon from the compound of the Haran Humanitarian Center, a shelter for evacuees being run by the United Church of the Philippines (UCCP).
The tension only fizzled out when Vice Mayor Duterte intervened.
Mayor Duterte reminded Catamco of her job as a member of Congress.
Because the eviction — which Catamco called a rescue — failed, she said “there is always a next time.”
For Duterte, the attempted eviction was an “order coming from an incompetent authority.”
Meanwhile, the advocacy group Sulong Katribu has called for Catamco’s removal from the House Committee on Indigenous People.
“We cannot fathom the logic of Catamco to force the lumad evacuees to return to their communities without resolving the adverse impacts of militarization and the rampage of state-sanctioned paramilitary groups in their territories,” said Sulong Katribu chairperson Windel Bolinget.
The group said Catamco grossly violated the rights of the lumads and because of this, she deserved to be removed from her office.
“She has willfully abandoned her duty as chairperson of the committee,” Bolinget said.
Leaders of UCCP were also outraged at the “excessive force” applied in the attempted eviction of the lumads.
“We are outraged at his show of excessive force more so because the Police did not have any warrant to enter and search the church facility, which is a private property,” UCCP said in a statement.
The protestant church is contemplating the filing of charges against the police. | JMT, NewsDesk