A Congresswoman’s misguided righteousness

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LAST Thursday, responding to a call from my good friend Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, I joined Dean Manuel P. Quibod in going to the Haran House after the police tried to storm the place apparently under orders from Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco to haul the lumad evacuees into waiting vehicles so that they could be sent home to their villages. We went there to give what legal support may be needed, but ended up giving moral support instead because things had calmed down by the time we got there.
 
After listening to what the people there, particularly the UCCP pastors who became the first line of defense, were saying, it was an eye-opener for me at just how easy it is to forget the basic human rights of each and every individual under the guise of a proclaimed noble cause.
 
Apparently, the police and the DSWD were under the impression that they were ‘rescuing’ the lumads who were there because they were made to believe that the evacuees were being held there against their will in some kind of ‘concentration camp’ when the truth was that the UCCP pastors were, in fact, giving sanctuary to the lumad bakwits who were compelled to leave their homes in Talaingod and parts of Bukidnon due to the alleged occupation by the military and elements of the Alamara of their communities.
 
The fact that the evacuees were not being held against their will became visibly evident when Vice-Mayor Paulo Duterte caused the gate to be left open for one hour and announced that those who wanted to go home can go out and go on the buses that were outside so they could be taken home, while those that wanted to stay would not be forced to leave.
 
After the appointed hour, the buses remained empty.
 
The sad thing was that several people, including evacuees, UCCP pastors and some policemen were hurt in the process all because Rep. Catamco apparently did not take the time or effort to verify her facts, or refused to believe what she had been told by the datus themselves, before compelling the DSWD and especially the police forces to act on an erroneous premise.
 
The stories that we heard while we were there struck a cord because it was reminiscent of the “Zonas” and “Hamletting” in the 80s during the violent times in Davao City’s Nicaragdao.
 
The lumads and the pastors were apparently faulted for their forcible resistance against the police, but, I think it was Pastor Jurie Jayme, who said “ dili ba normal nga pugngan nimo ang tao nga mamugos ug sulod sa imong balay nga walay pagtugot (Is it not supposed to be normal to prevent a person who forces himself or herself to enter your home without your consent)?”
 
It was as if it was suddenly forgotten that one of the most sacred of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution is that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable.”
 
It was clear to me that the pastors, who represented the owner of the compound, the UCCP church, had been demanding the legal basis for the intrusion.
 
It may be high time to remind ourselves that misguided righteousness, similar to what was apparently the cause of this sordid affair, was also the root of so many of the great tragedies of history – from the Spanish Inquisition to the genocidal Holocaust during World War II.
 
It has been proven time and again that it is so easy to forget basic human rights in the guise of forcing upon others what one blindly believes to be right.
 
We should never forget that our rights end where the rights of others begin.
To state it in our beloved dialect: Walay pugsanay!
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