Lawmaker tells Makabayan: 'Attend probe instead of rallying'
MANILA, Philippines – The chairperson of the House committee on indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples called on concerned individuals and groups to attend hearings on Lumad killings instead of rallying in the streets.
"Kaya nga mayroon tayong hearing para marinig natin, 'wag natin dalhin lang sa media, 'wag lang dalhin sa kalsada, hanap tayo ng magandang venue. This is the right venue where they can also air their side," North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco said on Thursday, November 12.
(We have hearings so that we can hear [their concerns]. Let us not bring this to the media and the streets. Let us find the right venue.)
Catamco was at a public hearing on the alleged harassment of indigenous peoples in Haran and Surigao. She inhibited herself from presiding the hearing.
The representative urged the progressive groups rallying out in the streets with the Lumad community to raise their issues before the congressional probe, where concerned government agencies are present. (READ: #Manilakbayan: Mindanao tribes demand a stop to Lumad killings)
"Kung ano-ano 'sinisigaw-sigaw nila na mga isyu na hindi napapakinggan [ng] kung sino dapat makarinig. Andito CHR, AFP, DSWD, NCIP. Na'ndito government agencies who want to respond to their call," she said.
(They are rallying in the streets, shouting issues that are not heard by the right authorities. But here present is the Commission on Human Rights, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Social Welfare and Development and National Commission on Indigenous People – the government agencies which want to respond to their call.)
The committee's public hearing was temporarily suspended due to the lack of resource persons.
Makabayan bloc a no-show
Among those invited but did not attend were members of the leftist Makabayan bloc: representatives Luz Ilagan and Emm de Jesus (Gabriela), Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), Antonio Tinio (Alliance of Concerned Teachers), and Jonathan dela Cruz (Abakada).
Speaking for the progressive coalition, Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan told Rappler that there was no formal notice sent to them about the hearing.
"I was texted two days ago [that] there would be a committee hearing. Is that the proper way to inform the member of the committee?" Ilagan said in a phone interview.
"Then the committee wanted me to submit names of resource persons who I have not informed whether they are willing to attend. You just don't give names unless you ask the permission of the people concerned if they are willing to become resource persons," she added.
However, a committee staff told Rappler they sent both an SMS and a formal written notice to those invited.
Meanwhile, Ilagan also pointed out that they did not attend primarily because they couldn't expect objectivity in a hearing initiated by Catamco. (READ: Did lawmaker call Lumad evacuees ‘stinky’?)
"How can you expect objectivity when the chair is the accuser, the presiding officer, and the person who, by the way, is also being accused by the other side as causing the commotion?" Ilagan said.
In an interview after the hearing, Catamco said, "I think they’re the ones discriminating [against] the hearing. I even inhibited myself [from chairing] this hearing to give them their side also."
Catamco has been at odds with nongovernmental organization workers and Makabayan bloc legislators as she insisted that Lumad "bakwits (evacuees)" must be "freed" and sent home as soon as possible.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte earlier blamed Catamco for the violence that erupted when authorities raided a temporary shelter of Lumad evacuees in Davao City to return them to their communities. (READ: Duterte: Lawmaker to blame for clash in Lumad evacuees' site)
Leading to a conclusion?
ANAC-IP Representative Jose Panganiban, who presided the hearing, said they could make conclusions based on the important testimonies during the two-day hearing.
Contrary to previous reports, Panganiban said, it seemed the indigenous community was not displaced due to heavy military presence in their residence. (READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)
Around 700 Lumad were relocated to Haran from their homes in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.
"Ang lumalabas ngayon, base dun sa pahayag nung mga unang nagsalita, ay kaya andun 'yung mga katutubo sa Haran eh dahil di umano ay naimbitahan sila dahil darating si Presidente PNoy, darating si Manny Pacquiao, at makikipag-usap sila kay Mayor Duterte."
(What was revealed today is, based on the testaments of those who spoke earlier, the IPs in Haran were there because they were invited to see President Aquino and [boxing champion and Sarangani Representative] Manny Pacquiao. They would also meet with [Davao City] Mayor [Rodrigo] Duterte.)
"Pakikinggan lang natin 'yung kahapon saka ngayon eh maari nang mag-conclude 'yung committee na ganun nga ang nangyari. Eh ayaw nga natin ng ganun kasi gusto ngang mapakinggan natin 'yung side nila."
(Based on those statements, the committee can conclude that was what transpired. But we do not want that because we want to hear their other side.)
Asked what would happen if the other parties continue to snub the hearing, Panganiban answered in Filipino, "If they will continue refusing to attend the hearing, we will [still] release a committee report."
Walk with the Lumad
Meanwhile, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano stressed that the conflict in Lumad communities “is all about the issue on resources, fighting over resources because the lumad areas are rich in natural resources.”
“There are many mining groups in the area small and large scale and in fact government is not aware about the activities. It is better to get into the bottom of the issue because there are so many implications, from economic to cultural implications. We have to look into the issue comprehensively,” he said.
Individuals and groups from various sectors have come out in support of the Lumad’s plight.
As part of ongoing protests dubbed #Manilakbayan, about 700 Lumad and organizations supporting them are walking to call for justice and peace on Friday, November 13. (READ: #Manilakbayan: Lumad to march against 'gov't abuses')
#Manilakbayan is a series of demonstrations held in Manila that come as a result of the increasing militarization in Mindanao and the human rights violations against the indigenous peoples of the area. The participants, called Manilakbayanis, have journeyed from their homes in Mindanao to Manila to have their voices heard. – with a report from Editha Caduaya/Rappler.com