Lumad evacuees, activists clash with cops in Davao
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Tension gripped Father Selga St in Davao City on Thursday, June 23, as police and the military attempted to force their way into a church compound where Lumad evacuees have been staying for about 3 months already.
Lumad leaders and their supporters from activist and church groups stood their ground to stop authorities from getting in.
Two cops were hurt while at least 17 Lumad leaders and their supporters were injured during the clash that happened inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound.
According to the Mindanao Foundation for Medical Disaster Preparedness and Response (MFMDPR), there are 668 Lumad evacuees, mostly women and children, who sought refuge in the Protestant church allegedly because of the presence of the military in their communities.
The police dispersal unit and a fire truck were dispatched by the police regional office upon the request of North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco, chair of the House committee on indigenous peoples. (READ: Did lawmaker call Lumad evacuees ‘stinky’?)
Sinira ng PNP ang gate ng UCCP HaranPosted by Glades Jane Maglunsod on Wednesday, 22 July 2015
Catamco told Rappler in a phone interview she wanted "to rescue, kids, women, and the elderly (because) they are being held hostage by militants.”
When asked to explain her basis for considering Lumad evacuees hostages, Catamco blew her top, suggesting the media is pinning the blame on the government.
"Kung evacuees, bakit naka-padlock ang Haran? (If they are evacuees, why are they locked inside Haran" she asked when pressed further.
However, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate claimed it was Catamco who triggered the tension.
"Instead of resolving the issue on militarization which pushed the Lumad to evacuate, she is making the issue worse," Zarate said.
Catamco stressed she visited the villages of the Lumad evacuees but did not see any military activity in the area. In a dialogue with Catamco and the evacuees on July 16, Bayan Muna proposed that the military should maintain a 500-meter distance from the communities.
Duterte defuses tension
Davao City Acting Mayor Paolo Duterte defused the tension Friday afternoon by declaring the area a free zone.
Duterte asked activist leaders led by UCCP pastor Sarlie Teplado and former Bayan Muna legislators Joel Virador and Joel Maglungsod to leave the compound. Police and other Lumad leaders who came for their relatives were also ordered to leave the premises.
He then asked the evacuees who wanted to go with the authorities to follow him to the buses waiting outside the compound.
Duterte waited for about an hour, but no one went out.
The evacuees defied authorities, choosing to stay with their supporters. Ama Salugo of Kawayan, San Fernando Bukidnon told Rappler in vernacular "we dont want to gome home because the military will harm us, it is better to stay here.”
Condition of evacuees
Duterte toured the compound with local Bayan Officials and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel to inspect the condition of the evacuees especially the children.
"In my assessment, the situation is bad. Many evacuees are sick, and water supply was reportedly cut off today,” according to Audrie Perez, DSWD regional focal person for indigenous peoples.
Perez said the compound is no longer “conducive” for the Lumad evacuees. He said the indigenous peoople are suffering in cramped tents made of laminated sacks and bamboos inside the compoud.
Meanwhile, Asya Mendez, an MFMDPR volunteer nurse, said most of the evacuees have been traumatized after the clash. They don’t want to be separated from their families.
She also said the evacuees are able to eat 3 times a day, but admitted there is a need to boost the immunity of the Lumad children in the evacuation center.
“Not everyone is vaccinated. They had no access to health services in their remote communities,” Mendez said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Mendez said her group and other supporters have been coordinating with health authorities in Davao City to address health and sanitation problems in the evacuation center. She welcomed help from doctors and other concerned citizens who would like to donate medicines and food.
Starting Thursday afternoon, DSWD personnel and members of the Davao Central 911 medical team were allowed to enter the compound to monitor the condition of the indigenous evacuees. – Rappler.com
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